31 December 2013

RCGP Comment on Government Plans for Visitor and Migrant NHS Access

RCGP pleased GP access free at point of need

Responding to the latest on Government plans to charge visitors and migrants who wish to use NHS services, Royal College of General Practitioners spokesperson, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, who is a GP in Birmingham, said:

"We are grateful that the Government appears to have made some concessions to its original proposals and we are pleased that access to a GP will remain free at the point of need.

"However, we still need reassurances that GPs are not going to be pressed into acting as an arm of the Border Agency and we remain unconvinced that the proposals will work across the NHS.

"There is no detail in today's announcement about how the new system for recording and monitoring foreign nationals will operate - or who will run it.

"GPs will face the dilemma and extra responsibility of what to do once they have consulted with patients in need of care. The ramifications of this could be very serious for patients who are in desparate need of assistance, and it must not be left to GPs to have to decide who is entitled to free NHS care and who is not. We are also concerned about the practicalities of charging for A&E services, and the extra burden that this would impose on busy A&E departments.

"While the NHS must not be abused and health tourism needs to be stopped, it is important to keep the problem in perspective.

"We need to know that the extra administrative responsibility will not fall to frontline NHS staff and take them away from their most important job of providing care to patients.

"GPs have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare and cannot be expected to police the system or prevent people from getting medical help when they are at their most vulnerable.

"We are already facing unprecedented workloads and this will only add to our adminstrative burden.

"A recent RCGP poll showed that some GPs are routinely carrying out up to 60 patient consultations in a day, with nearly half saying that they can no longer guarantee safe patient care.

"We must be allowed to get on with our proper job of caring for patients, not form-filling and acting as a quasi form of immigration control."

Further Information

RCGP Press office - 020 3188 7574/7575/7576
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 44,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.