GPs cannot be NHS 'border agency'

GP leaders have warned the government against making doctors a new 'border agency' after a clampdown on immigration was announced in the Queen's Speech.

Professor Clare Gerada: GPs cannot turn away vulnerable patients
Professor Clare Gerada: GPs cannot turn away vulnerable patients

A new immigration bill will seek to restrict access to health services for immigrants.

RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada said GPs must not be made responsible for policing access to the NHS.

‘While the health system must not be abused and we must bring an end to health tourism, it is important that we do not overestimate the problem and that GPs are not placed in the invidious position of being the new border agency,' she said.

‘General practice must remain the main access to healthcare within the NHS. 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.’

GPC deputy chairman Richard Vautrey said GPs should not become an 'arm of the immigration service', and warned the 'politically motivated' changes could be an unworkable burden on practices.   

'It is important that NHS services are provided to those who are eligible to receive them but GPs also have a professional responsibility to provide immediately necessary care to all patients', said Dr Vautrey.

Professor Gerada called on ministers to confirm that ring-fenced NHS funds will not be used to plug gaps in social care as they revealed details of a new bill to reform social care.

Professor Gerada said GPs could play an important role in greater joint-working between health and social care, and gave her support to measures in the bill such as enhanced legal rights for carers.

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