NEW research has discovered that some GP surgeries are refusing to register asylum seekers and refugees in the UK even though they are deemed eligible under the NHS.
According to the research, two-fifths of patients that the ‘Doctors of the World’ charity attempted to register were refused at GP surgeries in England.
The issue seems to be that the asylum seekers and refugees did not have a fixed address or any ID and were therefore refused the registration. The NHS states that these documents are not legally required in order to sign up for primary healthcare. 13 per cent were not allowed to register or seek medical help because of their immigration status.
One of the charity’s drop in centres is located in East London and is where many asylum seekers can come for medical attention. One Sri Lankan refugee who was not allowed to sign up at his local surgery said:
“I was very worried, I had so much pain and really needed medical help,”
“I showed my asylum letter but they said they couldn’t register me because the letter had no address.”
In response the Royal College of GPs has stated that the problem is primarily the additional paperwork and not discrimination.
Front line care, or Primary care should be free to almost everyone in England and GP surgeries play an important role in local communities and also ease pressure on A&E departments in helping with minor ailments and preventing the spread of disease in large hospitals.
Dr Steve Mowle said on the situation: “There are complicated rules around patients, many receptionists are trained that they have to have various proof of identity.”
“I don’t think GPs are sitting there thinking ‘let’s block care to refugees’, I think it’s the complexity of what’s going on in reception and I think our receptionists need support.”
One tuberculosis expert, Dr Al Story said that the situation poses a real risk: “If people get turned away from primary care and they are symptomatic and they could have tuberculosis, the consequences of that is transmission in the community, so it’s in all our interests to diagnose TB early.”
The charity has highlighted the issues and has put pressure on GPs across England to help ensure frontline staff understand exactly what the rules are – and register all eligible patients refugees, asylum seekers or otherwise.