Any person who wishes to receive national health service primary medical services can apply to a local general practice to register as a patient or as a temporary resident. However, under their contracts with their primary care trust the general practice can, where they have reasonable non-discriminatory grounds, decline an application, for example if they are not accepting new patients or because the prospective patient does not live within the practice boundary. Where an application is declined, the general practice must nevertheless provide as a term of their contracts any immediately necessary treatment for a period of up to 14 days free of charge.
Entitlement to free NHS hospital treatment is based on lawful and settled residence in the United Kingdom. Illegal immigrants are therefore subject to the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 1989, as amended, which set out a number of exemption from charge categories. Illegal immigrants are not exempt from charges except for certain services that are free to all, including treatment given inside an accident and emergency department or for certain infectious diseases.
Treatment which is clinically considered to be immediately necessary must never be withheld or delayed, although charges will still apply to illegal immigrants. Further, treatment that is clinically considered urgent enough that it cannot await the patient's return home, must also be provided, although hospitals should attempt to secure payment during the period before treatment is provided. Non-urgent treatment that can await the person's return home should not be given unless payment is received in advance.