Objectives Uptake of healthcare among migrants is a complex and controversial topic; there are multiple recognised barriers to accessing primary care. Delays in presentation to healthcare services may result in a greater burden on costly emergency care, as well as increased public health risks. This study aimed to explore some of the factors influencing registration of new entrants with general practitioners (GPs).
Design Retrospective cohort study.
Setting Port health screening at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, primary care.
Participants 252 559 new entrants to the UK, whose entry was documented by the port health tuberculosis screening processes at Heathrow and Gatwick. 191 had insufficient information for record linkage.
Primary outcome measure Registration with a GP practice within the UK, as measured through record linkage with the Personal Demographics Service (PDS) database.
Results Only 32.5% of 252 368 individuals were linked to the PDS, suggesting low levels of registration in the study population. Women were more likely to register than men, with a RR ratio of 1.44 (95% CI 1.41 to 1.46). Compared with those from Europe, individuals of nationalities from the Americas (0.43 (0.39 to 0.47)) and Africa (0.74 (0.69 to 0.79)) were less likely to register. Similarly, students (0.83 (0.81 to 0.85)), long-stay visitors (0.82 (0.77 to 0.87)) and asylum seekers (0.46 (0.42 to 0.51)) were less likely to register with a GP than other migrant groups.
Conclusions Levels of registration with GPs within this selected group of new entrants, as measured through record linkage, are low. Migrant groups with the lowest proportion registered are likely to be those with the highest health needs. The UK would benefit from a targeted approach to identify the migrants least likely to register for healthcare and to promote access among both users and service providers.
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To cite: Stagg HR, Jones J, Bickler G, et al. Poor uptake of primary healthcare registration among recent entrants to the UK: a retrospective cohort study. BMJ Open 2012;2:e001453. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001453
Contributors HRS and IA designed the study. The Demographics Batch Service undertook the matching of records via the Health Protection Agency. HRS carried out the analysis and wrote the manuscript, with input from all authors. All authors, external and internal, had full access to all the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. IA is the guarantor of this work.
Funding All the authors are funded by the Health Protection Agency. IA and HRS are partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethical approval was not required, as the Health Protection Agency has National Information Governance Board approval to hold and analyse national surveillance data for public health purposes under Section 251 of the NHS Act 2006.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available.
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