RCGP opposed to “policing” visitor healthcare

GP practices should not be tasked with being a "new border agency", says RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada.

The statement comes in response to a study commissioned by the Government that concludes the NHS could recover up to £500m by charging overseas visitors and migrants to use the health service.

The study estimates that £388 million is spent each year on patients who find themselves in need of healthcare while in England and who should already be paying for their care. In addition, there is a cost of between £70 million and £300 million from people who deliberately travel to England to get free NHS treatment – so-called 'health tourists' – which could be significantly reduced through a better cost recovery system and deterring abuse.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says: "Having a universal health service free at the point of use rightly makes us the envy of the world, but we must make sure the system is fair to the hardworking British taxpayers who fund it."

But in the RCGP response Dr Gerada says: "GPs have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare, and should not be expected to police access to healthcare and turn people away when they are at their most vulnerable.

"GPs are already facing ballooning workloads and a recent RCGP poll has shown that GPs are routinely carrying out up to 60 patient consultations a day, with nearly half saying they can no longer guarantee safe patient care.

"We also strongly oppose the extra administrative responsibilities for GPs and practice staff that would be created as a result of these proposals, which will further impact on all patients."