The British Medical Association (BMA) says charging foreigners to use the NHS would force GPs to ask for identity from every patient, includingUKnationals, when they register.
The BMA says it cannot see how the government’s plans would work, with identity checks an “intrusion and inconvenience” for patients, risking the delicate doctor-patient relationship.
Under the plans, set out earlier in the summer, people from outside Europe staying in theUKfor up to five years would be charged at least £200 a year for access to NHS healthcare.
Charges already in place for non-European Economic Area migrants accessing hospital care would be extended to GP visits.
The Department of Health argues the proposals would “protect the NHS from costly abuse.” However the BMA say the plans were “impractical, inefficient, uneconomic and could cause unintended damage to NHS services.”
Responding to the government’s consultation document, the BMA said: “Doctors’ primary ethical duty…is to respond to the needs of their patients. It is our view that doctors should not be required to make judgements on the immigration status of patients or their entitlement to treatment under the regulations.”
The Department of Health have sought to reassure doctors they wouldn’t become de facto immigration officers.
“We want to work alongside doctors to bring about improvements, but we must all work together to protect the NHS from costly abuse,” a spokesman said.
“We want a system that is fair for the British taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals pay for their NHS treatment.”