GPs paid to register an illegal immigrant: Fury over 64-a-patient incentive deal for doctors
New guidance says GPs cannot withhold appointment on the grounds that patient does not have identificationMPs Frank Field and Nicholas Soames said the situation is 'absolutely unacceptable'
00:04 GMT, 27 November 2012
llegal immigrants must be given free treatment by GPs, under a hugely controversial edict handed down by NHS managers.
The doctors will be paid 64 a year for each migrant they put on their books – the same amount they receive for all new patients.
The guidance, which was slipped out in July, states that an overseas visitor can register with a doctor provided they are in the area for more than 24 hours.
A GP’s appointment cannot be withheld on the grounds that the patient does not have personal identification or proof of residence.
Guidance: GPs have been told they must give illegal immigrants free treatment (file picture)
The instruction also says that past or present payment of taxes or National Insurance is not to be taken into account.
Last night, Whitehall sources said Jeremy Hunt was ‘concerned’ by the edict, which was issued before he became Health Secretary in September.
Officials said a review of the rules is under way to see if they need to be tightened. Two senior MPs have also written to the Prime Minister demanding the instruction – designed to protect the human rights of foreign visitors – be withdrawn immediately.
In a joint statement, Labour’s Frank Field and Conservative Nicholas Soames said the order goes much further than rules operated in other EU countries.
Some, including France and Germany, insist visitors have health insurance worth around 20,000 before they are granted a visa.
The MPs said: ‘The public will be astonished to learn that access to GPs in the NHS has been opened to anyone in the world who comes to Britain. We believe that this is absolutely unacceptable at a time when the NHS is already struggling financially.’
The impact of the instruction, passed without debate in the Commons, was revealed in a report by think-tank Migration Watch. Earlier this year the Daily Mail reported how foreign students and tourists must be given free treatment by GPs under human rights law.
But the analysis by Migration Watch reveals this must also apply to illegal immigrants. Refugees and asylum seekers already have the right to free NHS care so are unaffected by the change.
Joint statement: Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, left, and Labour MP Frank Field, right, said the situation was 'absolutely unacceptable' (file picture)
The group’s chairman, Sir Andrew Green, said it threatened to turn the NHS into the ‘World Health Service’. Its provisions allow illegal migrants and foreign visitors full and free access to primary care services, which can be the first step to costly secondary treatment in hospital.
Sir Andrew said: ‘At a time of intense pressure on the NHS this is an incredible decision. It is an open invitation to the whole world to come and take free advantage of a health service paid for by the taxes of the people of this country. Taxpayers will regard this as an insult and will want it reversed at once.’
GPs are paid 64 a year for any patient they register. Once registered, migrants will be entitled to the same care as all other patients and can receive free blood tests, jabs and – in certain cases – free prescription drugs.
In some respects, the new rules will give overseas patients more rights than those living in the UK , who can be turned away from surgeries if they live a few yards outside the catchment area.
In a statement, Mr Hunt said: ‘This is a National Health Service, not a global health service, and we must stamp out this abuse of the system. Where people are using registration to get free treatment through the backdoor, we will take action.’
n MINISTERS should break EU laws and test all foreign doctors on their English to ensure patient safety, Tory MPs Andrea Leadsom and Charlotte Leslie have insisted.
Brussels currently bans the Government from carrying out such checks on European doctors.