Immigration agency asked GP to deliver deportation notice to patient

A GP in Liverpool received an 'unprecedented' request from immigration officials to deliver a notice of deportation to a patient on his practice list who had a mental health problem, GPonline has learned.

GP asked to deliver deportation notice to a patient
GP asked to deliver deportation notice to a patient

BMA leaders condemned the request for the GP to deliver the notice, warning that doctors 'are not an extension of the UK immigration service'.

GPonline has learned that the Liverpool GP - who has asked not to be named - received a letter from UK Visas and Immigration in August 2017 asking him to deliver the deportation notice, with the deportation notice itself enclosed. The GP rejected the request from the agency - which is part of the Home Office - and sent a redacted copy of the letter to his LMC.

Liverpool LMC secretary Dr Rob Barnett has confirmed to GPonline that the letter reads: 'It is with great regret that [X's] application for leave to remain has been refused. From evidence submitted to the Home Office [X] is attending [the practice]. On the patient's next visit to the surgery, could you serve the refuse decision. This is due to the patient's ongoing mental health.'

GP-patient relationship

Dr Barnett said: 'It is incredible. I am concerned that a GP was in any way brought into this process. It cannot do anything to help the doctor-patient relationship in any circumstances. This is nothing to do with health - it is to do with immigration.'

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'It is unacceptable to ask a GP to do that, and to use information from the patient record in this way. We have made it absolutely clear on many occasions - GPs are not an extension of the border agency or immigration service. Such requests are completely unacceptable.'

Dr Vautrey said the request was 'unpredecented'. 'We have never heard of anything like this before, and I hope it never happens again. It should be plainly obvious to anyone that this is completely inappropriate.'

He said that once the BMA had seen the letter it would investigate who sent it and why.

Deportation

The deportation letter claim comes just weeks after the House of Commons health select committee hit out at an arrangement that allows the Home Office to use addresses collected in patient records for 'immigration chasing purposes'.

Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston wrote to NHS Digital on 31 January urging the organisation to withdraw from an arrangement to share addresses collected through GP patient records with the Home Office. The select committee has called the memorandum of understanding that allows the data sharing 'unacceptable', warning that 'data-sharing is taking place in a manner which is incompatible both with the guidance on confidentiality given by the GMC and the NHS code of confidentiality'.

Retired Manchester GP Dr John Hughes wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the request was 'totally unacceptable ethically'.

Dr Hughes said he was concerned that if the Home Office used GPs 'as a vehicle for delivering deportation letters', patients who were asylum seekers or whose immigration status was unclear could be reluctant to go to a GP.

Patients who were ill could be denied treatment, could end up presenting in A&E when their illness had worsened, or simply add to pressure on A&E by turning up there when they could have seen a GP, Dr Hughes warned.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: 'The description of the letter provided is not one we recognise as a Home Office document.'

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