Earlier this year, five local Healthwatch got in touch with all 322 GP practices across Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. They did this out of concern that some people and groups have been unable to register with their GP because they were being required to show photo ID and/or proof of address. Whilst ID can be requested but are not required and registration should not be refused on this basis.
Local Healthwatch ‘mystery shoppers’ contacted the GPs to ask what ID was required from patients. They found that 286 practices (or 88.8%) asked for some sort of proof of identification or address before a patient could be registered. When our mystery shoppers replied that they didn’t have any ID and asked what they could do, the majority of practices reiterated that some sort of identification or proof of address was required.
We are concerned that by asking for identification some patients may incorrectly assume that it is compulsory to provide identification, when it is not. This could result in vulnerable individuals being excluded from receiving the care that they are entitled to and need.
We are therefore recommending practices either adopt a policy of not asking for any identification at all, or that they ensure all staff are adequately trained to explain to newly registering patients that identification is preferred but not essential. We would also recommend updating their practice information.
Martyn Webster, Healthwatch Dorset Manager, told us:
"Patient satisfaction with GP services is high, but at the same time some people find difficulty actually getting those services in the first place. This has been highlighted by our recent joint "mystery shopper" project in which Healthwatch volunteers across Wessex contacted GP surgeries to find out what it's like to try to register with a GP.
Although NHS England states "You should not be refused registration or appointments because you don’t have a proof of address or personal identification", we discovered that, for example out of the 97 GP surgeries in Dorset only 7 did not require ID or proof of address to register a patient. This has an impact on people generally, but also particularly on a number of potentially vulnerable people, including former armed forces members, students in temporary accommodation, older women and people who are homeless."
As a result of this exercise, Wessex Voices arranged for local Healthwatch to talk to the Wessex Local Medical Council (LMC) about training for GP practices. The LMC have offered lunch and learn sessions for GP administrative staff which clarifies that patients don’t need to show photo ID to register.
The report has also been shared with GP practices and all Clinical Commissioning Groups in the area and they have been invited to respond to their individual Healthwatch.
Here is a link to the full report.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
About Wessex Voices:
Wessex Voices is an innovative partnership between NHS England and the five local Healthwatch in the Wessex area.
Funded by NHS England, our aim is to transform the sustainability and impact of public and patient involvement in health services in the area, and enable more people to be involved in the planning, commissioning and delivery of services.
We are the independent champion for people who use health and social care services. We exist to ensure that people are at the heart of care. We listen to what people like about services, and what could be improved and we share their views with those with the power to make change happen. We also help people find the information they need about services in their area.
We have the power to ensure that people's voices are heard by the government and those running services. As well as seeking the public's views ourselves, we also encourage services to involve people in decisions that affect them. Our sole purpose is to help make care better for people.
To find out more, or to arrange an interview, please contact Sue Newell, Wessex Voices, Programme Manager, Wessex Voices on 07595 424198 or firstname.lastname@example.org