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Asylum seekers nontreatment rules “unethical”

4 August 2008

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GPs could be breaching medical ethics and possibly legal guidelines by complying with government plans to deny failed asylum seekers access to free GP care, it has been reported.

According to campaigning doctors from the Global Health Advocacy Project, three-quarters of submissions received by the government from healthcare professionals say the proposals would break ethical guidelines set by the General Medical Council, the Observer has reported.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act found about 68% of GPs surveyed by the Department of Health thought infectious diseases would go undiagnosed.

One said that the plans could trigger outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and other diseases largely conquered in Britain if foreign nationals could not receive routine vaccinations on the NHS.

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone also lobbied the Department of Health against the plans, set out four years ago, warning that those refused access to a GP “will go immediately to A&E instead of primary care” or wait until they were ill enough to be placed in hospital as an emergency.

Under the plans drawn up by the Department of Health and the Home Office, overseas visitors would be eligible for free care from a GP only in emergencies or for treatment of a handful of diseases that could otherwise spread, such as HIV or TB.

Those affected would include rejected asylum seekers unable to go home because their countries had been deemed unsafe, such as Zimbabweans, or those still appealing against refusal.

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