Under new rules from the Conservative government, NHS hospitals across England are now obliged to demand payment upfront from patients who are unable to prove they are entitled to healthcare through a ‘residency and immigration’ check.
But doctors and patients are fighting back.
In a recent protest, members of the activist group Docs Not Cops set up an ‘immigration checkpoint’ outside the Department of Health offices in London. Doctors, nurses and patients blocked the entrance and presented people with the forms that NHS trusts are using to screen patients.
The government uses migrants as a scapegoat for the NHS funding crisis, but their own figures show that so-called ‘health tourism’ accounts for just 0.3 per cent of the NHS budget.
Elle, a member of Docs Not Cops and a cardiology trainee, called the changes ‘a high price to pay for the pain and suffering [it] will cause to people who are too afraid to access healthcare’.
Leonie, a midwife, said that undocumented people already feel wary of accessing public services in Britain. ‘Many women won’t go back for the treatment they need and… their health will suffer as a direct result,’ she said.
The charity Doctors of the World has previously reported cases of cancer sufferers, pregnant women and people with sick children being too fearful to see an NHS doctor.