Government publishes findings on its review of access to healthcare for foreign nationals - Refugee Council
July 31, 2009

Government publishes findings on its review of access to healthcare for foreign nationals

A step forward for our campaign on healthcare – but not far enough…

The government has published the main findings of its review into access to healthcare for foreign nationals. The review was undertaken jointly by the Home Office and the Department of Health, and while concluding overall that the current regulations should remain the same, makes a series of proposals to expand entitlement to free healthcare to refused asylum seekers who are in receipt of government support known as ‘Section 4’ that is offered to a small number of refused asylum seekers because they are unable to return home, and unaccompanied children. The findings also do not include any proposals to begin charging for primary care, marking a shift away from their last stated position.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“We welcome the fact that the government has recognised the absurdity of charging destitute people who can’t go home for secondary treatment, this is a positive step forward. However, only a few refused asylum seekers who are unable to return home qualify for ‘Section 4’ support, which means that the vast majority will remain unable to access free care. As a result, people with serious health problems such as kidney failure or cancer will still not be entitled to treatment until their condition becomes life-threatening. This is inhumane, and completely cost-ineffective – emergency treatment is extremely expensive.

“It is reassuring, however, that the government has heeded the warnings of health professionals and charities alike and has abandoned its plans to introduce charging for primary care.

“There is no evidence that asylum seekers come to the UK seeking healthcare, and indeed nothing to suggest they put pressure on hospital resources. We look forward to the full review being published in the Autumn and the opportunity to respond to it fully.”