Charging foreigners would damage NHS, doctors say

Government plan would force GPs to do the work of immigration service, says BMA chairman

Plans to charge more foreigners for using NHS services could mean every patient, including British nationals, having to prove their identity when they register with their GP, doctors have warned.

The British Medical Association (BMA) says it can see no way in which the Government’s plan could work without family doctors being forced to make identity checks that would be an “intrusion and inconvenience” for patients and would risk damage to the doctor-patient relationship.

The Department of Health argues the proposals, which were set out earlier in the summer, would “protect the NHS from costly abuse”. Under the plans, aimed at reducing the economic impact of so-called “health tourism”, people from outside Europe staying in the UK for up to five years would be charged at least £200 a year for access to NHS healthcare.

Charges already in place for non-European Economic Area migrants accessing hospital care would be extended to GP visits. The BMA said the plans were “impractical, inefficient, uneconomic and could cause unintended damage to NHS services”.

They added that there was no evidence to show the new charges would recoup the NHS the cost of implementing the scheme and warned that discouraging migrants from visiting GPs could pose public health risks.

In their response to the Government consultation, the BMA said: “Doctors’ primary ethical duty… is to respond to the needs of their patients. It is our view that doctors should not be  required to make judgements on  the immigration status of patients  or their entitlement to treatment under the regulations.”

Several doctors’ groups, including the BMA, had previously raised  concerns that medical staff would  become de facto immigration control officers.

The BMA also raised concerns over the impact a health levy would have on the number of migrant health workers willing to live in the UK. Although migrants needing immediate care would not be charged, the doctors’ union also raised concerns that patients would be put off from seeking care.

The Department of Health sought to reassure doctors that they wouldn’t be expected “to become immigration guards”.

“We want to work alongside doctors to bring about improvements, but we must all work together to protect the NHS from costly abuse. We want a system that is fair for the British taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals pay for their NHS treatment,” a spokesperson said.

However, there is still uncertainty over the true cost of immigration to the NHS. A Government audit is  due to report in the autumn, but  estimates range between £12m to £200m per year – from a total NHS budget of £109bn.

Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA Council, said the Government’s “entire approach” was flawed. “The NHS does not have the infrastructure or resources to administrate a charging system that is not likely to produce enough revenue to cover the cost of setting up its own bureaucracy,” he said.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

    Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

    £32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam