In this latest guest blog, Samir Jeraj, Policy and Practice Officer at the Race Equality Foundation explains what proposed changes to health charging in the NHS could mean for you.
If you work with foreign nationals or people subject to immigration controls, and/or provide healthcare as part of your services, health charging in the NHS could affect your work.
Charging for healthcare for some categories of migrants and ‘overseas visitors’ was introduced by the 2014 Immigration Act. The first set of charges, for secondary care, started in April 2015. The Department of Health recently consulted on extending charges to primary care and non-NHS providers (like voluntary sector and private healthcare providers). If introduced, this would mean providers could be required to check a person’s immigration status, and charge for certain health-related services – but this is not currently in force.
Here are some basic facts on what is currently happening:
- ‘Immediately necessary’ healthcare should always be given by medical workers, irrespective of someone’s immigration status. Immediately necessary care is ‘care that cannot wait until the person returns home.’ They may be charged for it later, but it should never be refused.
- There are a number of ‘exemptions’ that entitle a person to access all (or some) hospital services for free, irrespective of status. For example, victims of torture, sexual violence, vulnerable children, people in detained settings, and those with an infectious disease such as HIV or TB.
- Consultations with a GP or nurse in primary care are still free to everyone. Proof of address/ID is not required to register with a GP.
- A range of charities, voluntary sector organisations, trade unions, and professional bodies have voiced concerns about the principle of charging for healthcare, the impact on vulnerable groups and health inequalities, and whether the policy could practically be implemented.
- Campaigners are still seeking free healthcare exemptions for children, pregnant women and babies, destitute families receiving Section 17 support from their local authority, and mental health services.
For more information, please check out the guidance from Doctors of the World.
If any of you are working with people subject to immigration control and facing challenges in accessing healthcare, we would very much be interested in hearing from you. Please contact Samir at firstname.lastname@example.org.