How To How To

Support migrants to access primary care

Everyone can see a GP free of charge in England. This ‘how to’ helps you to ensure your practice supports registration for those in vulnerable situations.

Last updated

on 15.06.2018


  • Read the Factsheets: entitlement to Primary Care and Data Sharing
  • Make sure you and your practice staff know the guidance: that everyone is entitled to free primary care
  • Be aware of barriers faced by vulnerable patients
  • Check your registration policy: do you have a policy for those without ID or proof of address?
  • Protect confidentiality and dignity of patient by using interpreters, not family members or friends

During consultation

  • Provide support to those who are fearful at registration
  • Never ask about immigration status or visa—they are not relevant in primary care
  • Treat lack of proof of ID/address as a red flag for vulnerability
  • Until recently, patient data was shared with the Home Office for immigration enforcement. Patients can use the surgery address or a friend’s if they remain fearful about the safety of their personal information.
  • Use interpreters where needed
  • Take a whole practice approach
  • Use clinical discretion to classify treatment as ‘urgent or immediately necessary’ where appropriate
  • Always ask about violence—many of the charging exemptions are linked to violence
  • Always consider trafficking


  • Refer to secondary care regardless of status (it is the hospital’s responsibility to determine eligibility to care - the fact sheet on entitlement to secondary care provides further details)
  • See the Doctors of the World ‘Safe Surgeries’ Toolkit, which has guidance on how to make your surgery safe for patients in vulnerable situations