Undocumented migrants in Brent denied access to GPs
- Credit: PA
Undocumented migrants without proof of address or ID are being refused registration with GP surgeries in Brent, limiting their access to Covid-19 jabs, an investigation has found.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) contacted 19 surgeries, pretending to call on behalf of a migrant's friend. Four would not respond to the enquiry at all.
A further 12 would not register an undocumented person.
NHS guidance says anyone in England can register with a GP – without need for proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number – but only three Brent surgeries contacted agreed to register the caller's "friend".
If someone is not registered with a GP they not only cannot be vaccinated there, but they also cannot book a jab appointment via the NHS website or 119 helpline, or get an NHS number.
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Of the Brent surgeries which would not register the patient, only one suggested where to get a vaccine. Six did not know, two suggested calling a Covid line and one suggested looking online.
The BIJ telephoned 266 randomly-selected surgeries across the UK – in areas with large migrant populations – asking to register a patient who was female, in her 40s and undocumented.
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Liz (not her real name), a 48-year-old domestic worker from the Philippines, tried to register with a GP practice in London.
She has right to remain through the National Referral Mechanism, set up to support victims of modern slavery.
Despite this, it took five attempts and almost four years for her to have her registration accepted.
She said the person on the other end of the phone often sounded hostile.
She said: “They obviously sound racist, especially if they've heard you saying that you don't have an ID… And if I say to them that I'm a victim of modern slavery, they will really instantly reject you and put the phone down."
She said she heard from many other members of Voice of Domestic Workers that they are told that they don’t need to present any proof of address or IDs, “but when you get there, they will just reject you".
Liz has managed to get her first vaccine.
NHS consultant Dr Raja Amjid Riaz is Covid-19 programme leader at the Central Mosque of Brent in Willesden Green, which offers a walk-in service.
He said: "Brent Council and Brent PCN have agreed that people who are homeless, people who don't have a vaccine and people who don't have legal status to be here are free to have the vaccine done.
"If people are scared, it's our job to reassure them."
A spokesperson from NW London CCGs, said: “Our GP practices should be registering patients in-line with NHS England guidance.
"This research has highlighted that some of our practices are still following old guidance," they said.
“We will work to ensure all practices are up-to-date."
They added that unregistered patients can walk in to "any of our vaccination centres and be vaccinated" and "do not need to be registered with a GP".
"We always encourage patients who do not have a GP to register with one, but not having a GP or NHS number is not a barrier to vaccination," they said.
"We recognise the importance of all people being able to register with a GP and for any individual who experiences difficulty in registering with a GP practice in Brent please contact BRECCG.BrentEnquiries@nhs.net."
Brent has approximately 70 GP surgeries.