Thursday, January 24, 2008

Access to healthcare for refused asylum seekers

The Government is currently considering charging refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants for NHS primary health care, effectively denying thousands of vulnerable migrants access to healthcare entirely. And a campaign is developing to oppose these changes.

The Government’s aim is to reduce the abuse of the NHS by “health tourists” and to harmonise the UKs approach to this group (refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants have been denied access to secondary healthcare since 2004). However, there is no evidence to support the suggestion that people come to the UK with the sole purpose of accessing free NHS treatment.

Doctors, refugee and healthcare groups are concerned such charges could prevent vulnerable people, including pregnant women and children, from accessing treatment. These policies would place health professionals in the position of contravening professional codes of conduct – to offer care without discrimination.

The health service charity, Medact, along with a number of other organisations including MedSin (the student branch of Medact), Terrence Higgins Trust, The Refugee Council, Medicines Sans Frontieres and Medicines du Monde are currently supporters of the campaign.

A parliamentary meeting to discuss the issue of limiting access to healthcare for vulnerable migrants was held in December, bringing together over 100 people actively concerned with the provision of health services to migrant communities, including campaign groups, MPs, doctors and STAR members. The outcome of the meeting was to take the campaign message to primary care trusts and health service workers across the country, to continue to challenge these measures and to continue lobbying the government on this issue.

STAR also met with Medact in December to discuss the campaign and we are keen to keep in touch with them and stay involved.

What you can do

  • Get in touch with the MedSin branch at your Union and start working on this together – for more details visit the MedSin website
  • Join the campaign Facebook group
  • Encourage people to sign the petition
  • Write to your MP to raise awareness and ask them to sign EDM 220
  • Let STAR National Office know that you are involved – Email us}about/contact/contact_details

What’s next?

The Department of Health and Home Office are expected to make public their plans for introducing changes to healthcare access for people with undetermined immigration status in Parliament in January.
A protest is planned for when the joint review is published and STAR will keep you updated on campaign development
However, the campaign continues to gain momentum as this is an issue that is unlikely to go away

Links

MedSin defend primary healthcare
More info from MedSin
Medact

Posted by STAR team on 24/01/2008 at 01:53 PM