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GPs support the Government's plans to charge migrants to access the NHS by a margin of almost 2-to-1, despite strong opposition from the BMA and the RCGP, according to a Pulse survey.
A snapshot poll of 647 GPs from across the UK, conducted over the past week, found that 55% of respondents supported the proposed levy on migrants before they use the NHS. Some 30% were opposed to the plans, with the remainder 'don't knows'.
The Government's plans also appear to have support even among GPs who studied overseas. Some 48% of the 113 survey respondents who are international medical graduates said they backed the levy, with 34% opposed.
The results follow the publication of an independent report commissioned and published by the Department of Health earlier this week, which found that such a levy could raise £200m a year. It also concluded that the public supported the idea 'in principle'.
The report prompted the RCGP to warn that GPs must not become a 'new border agency' policing the NHS, while the BMA has previously said the plans could be 'detrimental' to patients and also affect the NHS workforce.
Under the new system, the levy will be set at around £150 for students and at around £200 for other temporary migrants. The DH predicts the levy could raise up to £1.9bn over a ten-year period, based on approximately 490,000 applicants who would be required to pay.
Responding to the Pulse survey, Dr Maurice Eakin, a GP in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, said: 'They [migrants] get better care here than in their own countries and if we went to their countries even on holiday we are expected to take out private medical insurance.'
Manchester GP Dr Ravi Mene said: 'All visitors must have health insurance which should be chargeable at the point of use. This happens even in European countries.'
Another GP who asked not to be named added: 'I work in an area with a high level of migrants accessing our services. This often involves interpreters, double and multiple appointments and a high level of referral onwards. In the past we also had a large number of people moving to our areas from EU countries and presenting with infertility requesting referral for IVF.'
However many GPs who supported the plans said practices should not be responsible for policing the system. Dr George Paige said he supported the plans 'as long as the area team administers it', while another GP who asked not to be named said administration of the scheme should not be 'dumped' on GP practices.
Other survey respondents were strongly opposed to the plans. Dr Nick Mann, a GP in Hackney, east London, warned that the plans were 'a slippery slope', 'not cost-effective' and would encourage xenophobia.
Kent GP Dr Hester Blaber questioned why the Government did not do more to claim back the money spent on treating overseas patients visiting the UK. 'Much more money could be recouped this way than by trying to police a levy,' he said.
Pulse editor Steve Nowottny said: 'Charging migrants for NHS care is clearly an emotive issue which divides GPs, but these survey findings suggest that the Government's plans have the support of a significant proportion of the profession.'
'Many GPs feel that a levy is a sensible measure to help manage rising demand. However even supporters of the scheme are wary of GPs being handed responsibility for policing the system, Ministers should take note and ensure that if they do end up introducing charging, it does not add to practices' already overwhelming workload.'
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.
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Pulse. "Majority of GPs back Government's plan to charge migrants, survey finds, UK." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 25 Oct. 2013. Web.
9 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/267890>
Pulse. (2013, October 25). "Majority of GPs back Government's plan to charge migrants, survey finds, UK." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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