GPs should be given the power to charge overseas visitors for treatments if there are doubts about their eligibility, so as to avoid any further growth of 'health tourism' into the UK.
That is according to the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Local Medical Committee (LMC), which has warned that health tourism directs precious NHS resources away from the residents who need them most.
According to Pulse magazine, the LMC has written to the Department of Health and the Home Office, calling on them to do more to help remove the obstacles facing GPs when they treat visitors who they do not believe to be eligible for care.
A government review is expected later this year into the level of migrant access to NHS services and the LMC wants eligibility to be stamped into people's passports when they enter the UK to make it easier for doctors to know whether they can treat them.
It said there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of GPs treating people they believe have come to the UK specifically for health services to which they are not entitled and would not have access to at home.
Dr Peter Graves, chief executive of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire LMC, wrote in the letter: "I am sure you too feel that those of us who pay our taxes do not expect to see precious NHS resources abused by people coming in from abroad with the sole purpose of accessing free healthcare when they have never paid anything towards the NHS."
He said that the situation was one faced across the country and that GPs are not in a position to police who is given access to NHS services.
In 2010, it was estimated by the Department of Health that health tourism costs the UK as much as £10 million a year in unrecovered costs. However, many claim that the figure is likely to be much higher, with many cases going completely unreported.
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