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GPs to police use of NHS by foreign nationals

By Alisdair Stirling

GPs could be forced to check immigration documents and charge patients who are not UK residents before treating them, under policy options being considered by the Department of Health.

The Government is set to widen its review of access to the NHS by foreign nationals to include primary care and will examine the possibility of GPs shouldering the responsibility of deciding eligibility.

The Department of Health’s response to the recent consultation on charging overseas visitors accessing NHS hospital care published today says: ‘Many people stressed the need for clear guidance from the Department of Health on entitlement to register with a GP practice for free primary medical services, and called for certain groups to be denied free access.

‘If no checks are made in primary care, and patients are referred to hospital, it makes it very easy for patients who should pay for secondary care to be missed by those assessing for charges in hospitals.’

GP practices are currently not required to request any proof of identity or immigration status from patients wishing to register.

The new review will look at the case for ‘extending current charging principles to primary care and also to enable charges, where applicable, across all providers of NHS treatment in the current and emerging NHS provider landscape,’ the response said.

Full proposals will be put out to public consultation in 2012.

GPs to police use of NHS by foreign nationals