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NHS trusts ask GP practices to identify overseas patients when referring

GPs have been asked by trusts to find out if patients are eligible for free NHS health care, according to an LMC.

The Cambridgeshire LMC newsletter this month revealed that NHS trust overseas visitor managers (OVMs), who are responsible for charging overseas patients in hospitals, have written to local GP practices requesting their help in identifying patients who need to pay for care.

The newsletter said: ‘GPC have been made aware that NHS trust OVMs have written to local GP practices requesting their help in identifying whether patients are eligible for free NHS care.

‘Specifically, the OVMs have asked GPs to note on referrals that patients are “overseas visitors” if they have been resident in the UK for less than six months.’

However, it added: ‘GPC want to reassure GPs that this is absolutely not their responsibility and that they are not required to do so.

‘Guidance from the Department of Health and Social Care is explicitly clear that the responsibility for determining a patient’s eligibility for NHS care lies with the trust and never with a GP or GP practice.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP Committee chair at the BMA, said: ‘Anyone in England, be they visiting or living here, is automatically entitled to free NHS primary care when they need it – it is not a GP’s responsibility to question or decide who is eligible for treatment.’

It follows the news that EU citizens living in the UK may have to prove their immigration status in order to receive free NHS care in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust said they were investigating whether this was happening in their hospitals.