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Will my immigration status prevent me from registering with a GP in the UK?

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Many people coming to the UK with concerns about their Immigration status will worry about receiving medical care from a GP if they fall ill. Our Immigration lawyers regularly advise people coming to the UK about their rights, and we have recently helped a client who was having difficulty registering with a GP. In fact, this is a common question for many - will their Immigration status mean they cannot get medical care in the UK when they need it? Our team of London immigration solicitors has the answers and is here to help if you or a family member is struggling to obtain medical care in the UK.

What does the UK’s General Medical Council say about Immigration status and registering with a GP in the UK?

The General Medical Council (GMC) is the body in the UK which regulates doctors. Its role is to protect patients. Its guidelines say that,

"The overriding principle that applies to patient registration is anyone, regardless of nationality and residential status may register and consult with a GP without charge"

The regulatory conditions are set out in Part 13 of the NHS England GMS Contract 2015/16 and Schedule 6, Part 2 of The National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts) Regulations 2004 which advises that in relation to non-residents it should be viewed as including,

"…treatment of new conditions and also pre-existing conditions that have become exacerbated during the period of a person's stay in England, subject to the contractor’s [the GP’s] clinical judgement."

If you do not have proof of identity, all the best Immigration solicitors in London will advise you that this is unnecessary. The GMC guidance states,

"There is no contractual duty to seek evidence of identity or Immigration status or proof of address. Therefore practices should not refuse registration on the grounds that a patient is unable to produce such evidence"

This is repeated in leaflets issued by NHS England which confirm that you cannot be refused registration with a GP because of your Immigration status.

Does this mean I can receive free medical care on the NHS?

Any Immigration solicitor will advise you that the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, provides free ‘primary care’ services to all, either if you are registering with a GP as an NHS patient, or are visiting and have been in the area for more than 24 hours but less than 3 months. Primary care services are the ‘first point of contact’ a patient will have with the NHS and include the GP and also community pharmacy and dentistry services. These services will be free.

Secondary care services in the UK are free for those who have ‘ordinary residence’ in the UK. This is based on living lawfully in the UK on a properly settled basis for the time being. In terms of Immigration status, free healthcare is available to those with Indefinite Leave to Remain. It is also available to EU citizens and EEA citizens with permanent residence although it is important to note that EU citizens who have been students and those who have been ‘self-sufficient’ in the UK have to show that they have had Comprehensive Sickness Insurance during the period of study/self-sufficiency. This can include a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from another EEA state.

Immigration health surcharge

If you’re visiting the UK for more than 6 months, it may be a condition of your visa that you pay the Immigration Health Surcharge which then allows you to access medical care for free on the NHS. The standard fee is £150 per year for students and each of their dependants, and £200 per year for everyone else. You have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge in full, for the whole visa period, upfront. This is in addition to the costs of the visa itself. Once you have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge and your visa or Immigration application is granted, you can access medical care on the NHS. You will still have to pay for some services.

Can I receive medical treatment if I haven’t paid the Immigration Health Surcharge?

Some medical services in the UK remain free to all even if you have not paid the Immigration Health Surcharge, and do not have Indefinite Leave to Remain, or are otherwise ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK. These services include Accident and Emergency (A&E) services, services relating to communicable diseases including HIV, TB and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), sexually transmitted diseases and family planning (although it doesn’t cover terminations and infertility treatment), and services for those how have suffered torture or domestic violence or abuse.

In addition to the services that are free regardless of Immigration status, some groups of people can access free services on the NHS, even though they are not ordinarily resident and have not paid the Immigration Health Surcharge. These include those granted refugee status, and Asylum seekers; Asylum seekers or the dependants of Asylum seekers who may become destitute – under s.95 Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, Asylum seekers in some cases even if the Asylum application has failed; looked after children, victims and suspected victims of modern slavery or human trafficking, people being treated under a court order, and finally prisoners and those detained under the Immigration rules.

For anyone concerned about accessing medical care in the UK and whether it is dependant on their Immigration status, our top London immigration solicitors can help. OTS Solicitors is a Legal 500 recommended Immigration law firm and can help with all aspects of Immigration law, whether you need help with your personal Asylum or visa application or help with business immigration. Book your appointment today by calling 0203 959 9123

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