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06-08-2012 | General practice | Article

Migrant access to GPs lacking

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MedWire News: Migrants newly arriving in the UK need better access to GPs and primary care services, say experts from the Health Protection Agency.

Professor Ibrahim Abubakar and colleagues found that less than a third of new entrants are registered with a GP.

They say students and asylum seekers in particular should be encouraged to register.

GPs also need to be more aware of migrants' eligibility for primary care, they add in BMJ Open.

The team's research was based on 252,559 new entrants to the UK, as documented by tuberculosis screening processes at Heathrow and Gatwick, of whom 191 were excluded from the study due to insufficient data.

Only 79,206 (32.5%) of the remaining 252,368 individuals had registered with a GP practice, as measured through record linkage with the Personal Demographics Service database.

Migrants from the Americas and Africa were less likely than those from Europe to be registered with a GP, while students, long-stay visitors and asylum seekers were less likely to be registered than other migrant groups.

Professor Abubakar and team say that in addition to promoting access to primary care among migrants and service providers, supporting GPs is also "particularly crucial, especially given the autonomy of GPs in registering patients".

"If new entrants do not register for primary care, they are not exposed to the awareness-raising and case-finding campaigns that often target specific vulnerable population groups via GP surgeries," they emphasise.

MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price