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Patient Registration: GP Surgeries

Volume 659: debated on Tuesday 7 May 2019

1. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that patients with no (a) fixed address and (b) proof of identity can register at GP surgeries. (910713)

We are very clear that GP surgeries cannot refuse to register somebody who is of no fixed abode or has no proof of identification. Where a practice does not properly provide correct access to vulnerable groups, the commissioner will intervene to ensure that it corrects that. Ultimately, the commissioner can issue a remedial notice and can terminate a contract or practice that still does not abide by its obligations.

Has the Minister seen the report by a mystery shopper from Friends, Families and Travellers who attempted to register with 50 GP practices without ID or proof of address? Twenty-four refused to register her or would not register her; all but two of those were rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission. The Minister says GPs must properly follow the guidance, but does she agree that the CQC needs to ensure that it uses the inspection regime to enforce that guidance?

I totally agree. I have seen the report, which I welcome; I will certainly take it up with the CQC. It is very important that we use all tools to ensure that everyone has access to the healthcare they deserve, because it is all too easy for some groups to remain discriminated against. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for shining a light on this important issue.

We have one of the very few free at point of need health services in the world. Does the Minister agree, however, that checks are important in cracking down on health tourism? Does she have the latest assessment of the cost of health tourism to our NHS?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right—health tourism is a major cost to the taxpayer, so it is important that we establish that people are entitled to care. However, it is important to ensure that people without proof of ID and of residence are still entitled to healthcare. Where someone is not entitled to it, we will, of course, pursue them for payment.