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GPs blast migrant health plans

RCGP says GPs must not become 'border agency' policing NHS

Mark Gould

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) says that GPs must not become the "new border agency" in policing the NHS in its response to the Department of Health's consultation on access to healthcare for migrants.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt proposes a system in which non-resident migrants and visitors from outside the EU would choose either to opt in and pay a new levy of between £200 and £500 per year upon entering the country, or pay for all primary care treatment up front.

But RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada has called the plans "regressive" and prematurely put out to consultation without due consideration of the potential implications.

“As we have said from the outset, GPs must not become a 'new border agency' in policing the NHS. Limiting access to NHS services will fundamentally change one of the founding principles of general practice - that healthcare is free at the point of need," she said.

She claims that the plans have serious implications for public health. "This will inevitably deter people from seeking medical help in the early stages of illness when they can be dealt with cost-effectively and efficiently in primary care, rather than requiring expensive specialist care and increasing admissions to emergency departments."

She also says the plans will impose an extra administrative burden on general practice staff which will impact on all patients.

“GPs are already working record hours - some making up to 60 patient contacts in a single day - and facing increasing responsibilities which are not being met with sufficient resources.

“These proposals outlined in this consultation would both compound the already unsustainable pressures facing GPs and practice staff and limit the ability of GPs to protect and promote the health of their patients and the public," she said.

Two consultations on migrant and short-term visitor access to the NHS, both of which closed on Wednesday, outline proposals on how to charge these people for healthcare.

The Department of Health’s consultation is called Sustaining Services, ensuring fairness: a consultation on migrant access and the financial contribution to NHS provision and that run by the Home Office is Controlling immigration: Regulating access to health services in the UK.

The BMA has already rejected the plans, saying they are impractical, inefficient, uneconomic and could cause unintended damage to the NHS.

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