Doctors of the World have updated their research assessing the accessibility of NHS GP registration for people in vulnerable circumstances. Previous reports have indicated that despite patient entitlements, wrongful refusal by GP practices is worryingly commonplace. For this update, DOTW analysed the outcome of all their attempts to register their patients with GPs between 1 January and 31 December 2018. Of 2,189 attempts made by DOTW to register a patient with a GP in 2018, almost one fifth were wrongly refused (19%). Like in previous years, lack of paperwork was the most common barrier – not being able to provide proof of ID or address was the reason for refusing patients in 64% of cases. The patient’s immigration status was a factor in turning patients away 28 times (7%).
The findings shed light on the frequent deviation of GP registration policies from NHS England guidelines and GP contract obligations. Such policies are discriminatory and dangerous because they disproportionately affect vulnerable groups who may not be able to provide documents or an address. The report calls for a comprehensive training programme for GP practice reception and administrative staff on entitlement to NHS care and good practice registration processes to be rolled out, as well as greater support for DOTW’s Safe Surgeries initiative.