We can’t be sure how many migrants registered with GPs in the last decade

23 August 2019
What was claimed

6.5 million migrants have registered with UK GPs in the last 10 years.

Our verdict

According to the ONS, that’s how many new GP registrations there were in England and Wales between 2007 and 2017 where the person’s previous address was abroad. But migrants who moved between homes in the UK may have been double counted and we don’t know how many were only here short-term.

A Facebook post claiming that 6.5 million patients registered with UK GPs in the last ten years, and which seems to cite the medical journal Lancet as its source, has been shared on Facebook.

It’s very similar to a post we checked earlier this year.

The figure of 6.5 million is technically correct looking at the number of GP registrations between 2007 and 2017 where the person’s previous address was probably outside the UK. The figure is just for GP registrations in England and Wales rather than the whole of the UK (it’s about 6.6 million including Northern Ireland and figures for Scotland aren’t available).

These were the latest figures available again at the time the claim was posted on Facebook, but newer data is now available covering 2008 to 2018, which shows the same figure for England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

But the number of registrations isn’t the same as the number of migrants. That’s because for most of the period it covers, this measurement could have double counted some immigrants who registered at one GP, moved homes within England and Wales, and then registered at another.

NHS Digital, which collects the figures, also told us it doesn’t know to what extent this double counting occurred. The number might also include UK citizens who left the country for more than three months before returning to live in the UK and register with a new GP.

The figure doesn’t factor in how many of these GP registrations were for people who only stayed in the country for a short period. Because of this, it’s not a very good way of measuring how much the population has grown because of immigration.

Other measures suggest fewer than 6.5 million people have immigrated to the UK between 2007 and 2017, although there are significant questions over how reliable some of those figures are.

The figure also doesn’t come from the Lancet, it comes from data collected by NHS Digital and published by the Office for National Statistics.

We’ve got more information on the claim in our original factcheck here.

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