Hackney GP surgeries warned over 'no ID, no registration' policies for new patients

A GP checking a patient's blood pressure

Hackney GP practices have been warned over "no ID, no registration" policies which breach NHS guidelines - Credit: PA

Four Hackney practices told a health watchdog they had a “no ID, no registration” policy for new patients, with another saying it would refuse asylum seekers and homeless people – despite these breaching NHS policy.

In March 2021, Healthwatch Hackney contacted all 39 practices in Hackney to find out if they were asking for ID from new patients – which is against NHS guidelines.

Staff at 23 practices asked for ID and 27 practices said they would ask for an address.

Healthwatch chair Malcolm Alexander said: “One practice said: ‘We don’t register asylum seekers’, which was quite extraordinary.” It has since amended its information.

The head of primary care for the North East London clinical commissioning group, Richard Bull, contacted all the surgeries to remind them that a policy of asking for documents leads to a denial of healthcare.

He asked Healthwatch to repeat its investigation six months later.

NHS rules say patients must be registered unless the practice has reasonable grounds to decline them, even if they do not have documents to prove they live in the area.

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Patients only need to show ID if they want online access to their medical records, because these are sensitive and confidential.

Some practices reviewed their information.

Follow-up calls in October 2021 found that seven practices were still asking for ID and ten practices still wanted a patient’s address before registering them.

When Bull contacted all the practices that told Healthwatch they wanted patients’ ID or address details, they agreed it is not needed and said they trained staff regularly about registration rules.

They said they were “extremely disappointed that on this occasion Healthwatch Hackney had been told the wrong thing”.

The pandemic meant surgeries saw higher turnover of reception staff, sickness rates and use of temporary staff, and “it was harder to ensure that staff were saying the right thing all of the time”.

Bull told the council’s Health in Hackney scrutiny committee last week that he wants the watchdog to do another follow-up.

Ultimately, the NHS can issue breaches, he said, if patients are denied registration.