The move comes after the RCGP earlier this week expressed its 'disappointment and frustration' with legislation announced in the Queen's Speech to charge overseas patients for GP appointments, warning that it would fundamentally alter the founding principles of the NHS.
Proposing the motion, Eastbourne GP Dr Russell Brown said that he had no problem with people from overseas accessing services at his practice, but that it needed to be properly resourced.
‘This motion is not about denying access to care, it is about proper resources. We are not funded for this,’ he said.
‘If a GP is seeing a foreign patient then it is taking time away from NHS patients. If people are not eligible for NHS care then it needs to be funded.’
Dr Brown pointed out that even if there were reciprocal funding arrangements in place between the NHS and the country a patient came from, that money never reaches practices.
However several delegates spoke against the motion. Dr Frances O’Hagan from Southern Northern Ireland LMC said that for her practice overseas was ‘over the field’. She said there needed to be greater clarity about whether ‘overseas’ meant patients from the EU or outside the EU.
Dr Greg Place from Nottinghamshire LMC said: ‘We are NHS doctors and we should be providing care free at the point of delivery. Let someone else work out how to pay for it, but we should be treating our patients What about vulnerable and those unable to pay? Would we start sending them away at the desk? Of course we wouldn’t.’
The conference narrowly voted in support of charging overseas patients on a private-fee paying basis.
There was more widespread support for motions saying that any fees should be retained by the practice and that the government should be required to offer NHS care free to overseas visitors at walk-in centres, urgent care centres and A&E departments.