Some doctors have warned they fear being turned into “a form of immigration control” over plans to charge visitors for GP access.
Media caption Dr Clare Gerada: I don’t think we should be turning the GP surgery into a border agency
Royal College of GPs chairwoman Dr Gerada said: “My first duty is to my patient – I don’t ask where they’re from or whether they’ve got a credit card or whether they can pay.”
For Labour, shadow health minister Liz Kendall said people who were not entitled to free NHS care should be made to pay for it but added: “We will have many questions to ask about the details when they are published but the key tests for their proposals are: can they be properly enforced and will they save more money than they cost to put in place?”
She also said plans must “protect the public’s health as well as taxpayers’ money”.
On Twitter, shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said: “What price xenophobia? Stigmatising foreigners accessing NHS creates a public health risk.”
The National Aids Trust said the policies would “undermine years of work to encourage marginalised at-risk groups to access HIV testing and treatment”.
Chief executive Deborah Jack said “limiting access to primary care for some migrants” would cut off “the only place many of them will get an HIV diagnosis – short of presenting at A&E many years after they were infected once they are very seriously ill”.
She added: “If they go ahead, they risk putting lives at risk and accelerating the spread of HIV in the general population.”
The Department of Health said people with HIV would still receive free healthcare if the scheme was introduced and Mr Hunt told the BBC there would be an “exemption on all public health grounds” and pointed to other countries which charge for healthcare but did not suffer higher rates of, for example TB, as a result.
The government has previously said a government-wide push to cut “benefit tourism” was being considered in response to “widespread public concern”.