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GPs must ‘use their discretion’ to treat migrants

Practices should use their discretion to treat migrants who are ‘eligible but not necessarily entitled' to free healthcare on the NHS, say top GPs.

Speaking exclusively to Pulse at a Migrant Rights Network event, Dr Kambiz Boomla, chair of City and East London LMC, said that GPs had a duty of care to migrants: ‘It's important to me that GPs use their discretion to register people who are eligible but not necessarily entitled to care.'

‘If we don't treat people with long-term conditions in primary care then further down the line they end up in A&E, which causes a lot of heartache and distress.'

He also called on GP commissioners to get to grips with the needs of their local migrant population. He gave the example of his own practice in Tower Hamlets, where Bangladeshi migrants present with similar long-term conditions to the resident Bangladeshi community, while Somali migrants are more likely to suffer from infectious diseases and TB as a result of overcrowded housing situations.

Also speaking at the event, GP in Birmingham and RCGP clinical champion for social improvement Dr Paramjit Gill warned his colleagues not to get complacent on the issue of migrant health.

‘Established migrants who have been here 20 or 30 years still carry the same risk factors as they move out to the suburbs and rural areas where we still encounter the same problems, such as vitamin D deficiency,' he explained.

‘A problem like that is not restricted to poor deprived areas - it also affects the most affluent people from the Asian subcontinent.'

Dr Angela Burnett, a GP in Hackney, also voiced her concerns for migrant healthcare and emphasised the job satisfaction she experienced working in a health clinic for visitors to the UK.

‘It's very rewarding,' she said. ‘Migrant healthcare is an area where you can make a huge difference.'