Migrants are to face new charges for some NHS services in England, ministers say.

They include extended prescription fees, the introduction of charges for some emergency care and higher rates for optical and dental services.

However, GP and nurse consultations will remain free, and nobody will be turned away in an emergency.

Ministers say they are keen to clamp down on any abuse of the system, but doctors’ leaders have voiced concerns.

Other types of primary care services that are being considered for charging include minor surgery that is carried out by a GP and physiotherapy, the government said the changes would allow the NHS to recoup money, and encourage only those who need urgent and emergency care to attend.

Health Minister Lord Howe said: “Having a universal health service free at the point of use rightly makes us the envy of the world, but we must make sure the system is fair to the hardworking British taxpayers who fund it.

“We know that we need to make changes across the NHS to better identify and charge visitors and migrants. Introducing charging at primary care is the first step to achieving this.

“We are already looking at taking action and next year we will set out our detailed plans to clamp down on the abuse of our NHS.”

The British Medical Association said it was concerned the proposals would require doctors and GPs to spend more time on paperwork and that it could cost more in administration charges than what it would recuperate.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA Council, said: “The government’s current proposals could create unintended drawbacks for the NHS and patients.

“They are likely to create a complex patchwork of charging and access entitlements where some services remain free, such as GP appointments, while others will be chargeable, including A&E visits and other services provided via many GP practices, such as physiotherapy.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who leads the BMA’s GP committee, added: “We cannot have a situation where any patient with a serious health need is deterred from visiting a GP, especially if their condition raises a potential public health risk.”

There are also plans to introduce a new system for identifying and recording patients who should be charged for NHS services.

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