The Home Office and the Department of Health have launched parallel consultations with new proposals to charge migrants for using the UK health system.
The proposals include charging for GP services as well as considering charging for emergency treatment in hospitals.
It is proposed that refugees and asylum seekers who are still waiting for a decision on their claim will be exempt from these charges but that refused asylum seekers not receiving asylum support will be charged.
In response Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
These proposals will affect our most vulnerable clients, refused asylum seekers who are often destitute, unable or too scared to return to their home countries.
Depriving people of healthcare doesn’t make health problems go away. Restricting access to one part of the health service is simply likely to result in a higher use of more costly emergency provision later on.
Every time rules are changed people are wrongly refused with devastating results for their health and well being.
The proposals will also create further barriers for pregnant asylum seeking women accessing maternity care. This is particularly concerning as this group have a much higher maternal mortality rate than other women in the UK.”
One of our clients in Yorkshire and Humberside was interviewed by the Today programme about how the changes would impact on him.
You can listen to the interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0367sph/Today_03_07_2013/ (fast forward to 36 minutes)
You can read the full Department of Health consultation paper here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/migrants-and-overseas-visitors-use-of-the-nhs
You can read the full Home Office consultation paper here: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/consultations/34-healthcare/