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NHS frontlineMay 23 2016

The RCGP is “disappointed and frustrated” that the Government has reiterated its intention to introduce legislation requiring overseas visitors to pay for using the NHS.

One of the draft bills announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech is being introduced to “meet the manifesto commitment to recover costs from migrants who use the NHS,” said the Government. It will extend the rules on charging migrants and overseas visitors for NHS treatment, “to ensure that only UK residents - who live here lawfully and make a financial contribution to this country - will get free NHS care.”

However, RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker said the plans to introduce charging for GP care were being “forced through” despite GPs’ concerns and persistent opposition. “This fundamentally changes one of the founding principles of the NHS – that care is delivered free at the point of need,” she said.

“We question how cost-effective this legislation will be given that the Government’s own impact assessment found that, even in the best case scenario, economic benefits for the health service would be minimal. It would also be a very real public health risk to have people living with potentially contagious diseases, because they are deterred from seeking healthcare because of cost.

“The College recognises that the NHS must not be abused and measures need to be taken to tackle health tourism, but doctors have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare and must not be expected to police the system or prevent people from getting medical help when they are at their most vulnerable.”

Dr Baker said that GPs and practice staff “will be left doing the grunt work”, having to explain the rules to patients as well as having more paperwork to do, ”ultimately taking us away from delivering frontline patient care when demand is at an all time high. General practice is under intense resource and workforce pressure, but charging patients for appointments is not the answer.”

Further details regarding the NHS (Overseas Visitors Charging) Bill “will be brought forward when the Bill is published.”

Links:

RCGP comment

Queen’s Speech 2016      

Queen’s Speech background briefing notes

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