Non-Eu patients should be charged for GP services

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the move would generate an annual saving of £500 million and will ensure such patients make a fair contribution.

The announcement follows the government’s statement earlier in the year where it indicated that non-EU patients would be charged for A&E and ambulance care. However this has now been extended to some GP services too.

Nonetheless, doctors’ leaders have argued that GPs should not act as ‘immigration control’.

The government has insisted refugees and asylum seekers would be exempt from the charges, and no-one would be denied emergency care at the point of need. A consultation for this proposal will begin on 7 December.

Currently, visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) already pay for planned non-urgent hospital care.
Hunt said: "We want to make sure that everyone makes a fair contribution to services, by extending charging to make sure visitors pay for the care they receive.

"This government was the first to introduce tough measures to clamp down on migrants accessing the NHS and these changes will recover up to £500m per year to put back into frontline patient care."

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary of the Royal College of GPs, said: "One of the founding principles of the NHS is that healthcare is free at the point of need and limiting access would fundamentally change that.

"General practice is already under immense resource and workforce pressures so it is imperative that GPs and our teams do not find ourselves acting as immigration control and being burdened with even more bureaucracy."

The British Medical Association (BMA) has previously counselled that doctors have a responsibility to treat patients and ‘not to act as border guards’.

A spokesperson for the BMA said: "A doctor's duty is to treat the patient in front of them, not to act as border guards. Any plans to charge migrants and short-term visitors need to be practical, economic and efficient.”

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