What are the Rules on Treating Overseas Patients?

Do I have to treat a patient who lives overseas or is not a British citizen?

Yes, anyone in England, regardless of nationality and residential status, is eligible to register and consult with a GP.

This includes all overseas visitors, asylum seekers and refugees, students, and people on work visas, irrespective of immigration status.

Can I charge?

Unless the patient chooses to be seen privately, practices are not permitted to charge overseas patients, including tourists for registering or consulting with a GP.

Should I register a patient as temporary or permanent?

A patient should be registered as temporary if they intend to be resident in the practice area for more than 24 hours but fewer than three months.

If the patient intends to reside in the practice area for longer than three months, they should be registered as permanent.

Do I need to ask for proof of address?

Practices are not contractually obliged to ask for proof of address. While practices may ask for proof of address for practical reasons, a patient’s inability to provide this would not be a sufficient reason to refuse their registration.

So, if a patient claims to reside within the practice area but is unable to prove this, the practice must register the patient in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

What if they live outside my boundary?

If there is evidence that a patient lives outside of the practice boundary, GP practices are permitted to register them under the government’s ‘patient choice’ scheme. However, they are not obliged to do so.

NHS England states that there is no obligation for GPs to provide home visits or out of hours services for out of area patients.

Do I need to ask for the patient’s ID at registration?

Practices are not required to ask for the patients ID upon registration. However, practices can choose to implement a policy whereby they ask for patient ID as part of the registration process.

Such a policy must explain the procedure in place for patients who are unable to supply identification, and any such policy must apply to all prospective patients equally.

Can I decline to register a patient?

GPs have limited discretion to decline to register patients.

A GP can only refuse to register a patient if their list is closed to new patients, if the patient lives outside the practice boundary, or if other reasonable grounds for the refusal exist.

In the event that a practice does refuse a patient’s application, NHS England states that the practice is obliged to record the name, date and reason for the refusal.

The practice must give the patient a written explanation of the refusal within 14 days.

Is deciding not to register a patient purely because of their status as an overseas visitor discriminatory?

Yes, all applications for registration must be considered in the same way. The prospective patient’s country of residence is irrelevant to the application process.