Practices should register patients who do not have proof of address, including people who are homeless, staying with friends, living on a boat, tourists and overseas visitors, whether lawfully in the UK or not, NHS England said in new guidance.
“Anybody in England may register and consult with a GP without charge,” the ‘operating principles’ said, as patients only need to be ordinarily resident in the country for secondary care. Registration and appointments “should not be withheld” if the patient doesn’t have the necessary identification or proof of address.
The aim of these new principles is to embed best practice, create consistency, clarify contractual rules and ensure "fairness, equity, and transparency" in delivery.
If a practice refuses to register a patient they must record the name, date and reason, and write to the patient explaining why they have been refused within 14 days of the refusal. Commissioners may ask practices to submit the numbers of registration refusals, age, ethnicity and reasons as part of their quality assurance process, this information should be made available to commissioners on request.
Any practice that requests documentation regarding a patient’s identity or immigration status must apply the same process for all patients requesting registration. If there is a policy to ask for patient ID it must clarify what action should be taken if no ID can be provided.
Once a patient is registered, it is a contractual requirement for practices to offer a new patient check “however neither registration nor clinical appointments should be delayed because of the unavailability of a new patient check appointment” NHS England explains.
Not only should practices register anybody, they are also “under a duty to provide emergency or immediately necessary treatment” irrespective of nationality/immigration status and provide 14 days of further provision.