Immigrant GP registration drive needed, HPA says

Only a third of immigrants to the UK register with GPs and targeted action is needed to improve registration rates, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has warned.

Access of migrant patients to primary healthcare needs to improve
Access of migrant patients to primary healthcare needs to improve

A team of researchers from the HPA looked at GP registrations among people whose entry to the UK had been documented by port health tuberculosis screening processes at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. GP registration was measured through record linkage with the Personal Demographics Service (PDS) database.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar and his team found that just 32.5% of 252,368 individuals were registered with GP practices.

Women were 44% more likely than men to register. People from Europe were more likely to register than those from the Americas or Africa. The HPA team said that they could not identify why some groups were less likely to register, but that solutions to the problem were needed.

‘The UK would benefit from a targeted approach to identify the migrants least likely to register for healthcare and promote their access among both users and service providers,’ they said.

‘However, registration is only the first step for adequate provision of healthcare. Supporting practitioners is particularly crucial, especially given the autonomy of GPs in registering patients.’

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar and his colleagues said the poor rate of registration among immigrants would pose problems for healthcare provision.

‘If new entrants do not register for primary care, they are not exposed to the awareness-raising and case-finding campaigns that often target specific vulnerable population groups via GP surgeries, they said. ‘Clearly case-finding interventions will be ineffective, and excessively costly, if the majority of migrants are not registered for primary care services and thus cannot be approached.’

The researchers added: ‘By improving the access of migrant patients to primary healthcare delayed presentation, transmission risks and the burden on emergency services should be decreased.’

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