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Border guard suggestion infuriates GPs

Doctors will not become immigration agents, deciding if patients are eligible for NHS care, medics have declared.

Richard Vautrey listening ARM2013Medical professionals at the BMA annual representative meeting in Edinburgh expressed their fury at government suggestions that doctors should check the eligibility of non-UK patients seeking treatment.

BMA GPs committee deputy chair Richard Vautrey (pictured right) said: ‘Doctors are many things. They must not become immigration officers and border guards.’

Dr Vautrey said GPs had become used to being blamed by the government for the problems facing emergency medicine and other issues in the NHS.

‘The focus has turned to the crime of GPs treating patients in need, GPs treating the asylum seeker or the refugee, GPs treating the vulnerable and those who need our care,’ he said.

‘We are told large numbers of immigrants are coming to the UK with the sole purpose of abusing our healthcare [system]. We are told that something must be done – and GPs must do it.’

Dr Vautrey said the plans were ‘unworkable’ in general practice.

‘How are we supposed to respond to those patients that need immediate and necessary care? Will I be expected to leave them on the practice doorstep to fend for themselves?’ he asked the meeting.

Dr Vautrey added that he had excellent practice staff but they could not be expected to check patients’ visa documentation at reception.

BMA international committee chair Terry John said he would welcome the support of the ARM in strengthening the association’s opposition to doctors becoming agents of the UK Border Agency or its successor.