Abandon charging migrants for NHS care

Delegates gathering in Belfast for the annual conference of the BMA have backed a motion which called for ‘the policy of charging migrants for NHS care to be abandoned and for the NHS to be free for all at the point of delivery’.

The British Medical Association has become the first body representing medical staff to call for the complete abolition of the charges, which have been heavily criticised by MPs and health charities. The call follows mounting criticism of the rules for stopping undocumented migrants from accessing care they need because they cannot pay the fees in advance.

Current legislation compels hospitals in England to check overseas visitors’ eligibility for free NHS care and seek payment upfront from those deemed ineligible, such as asylum seekers and visa overstayers.

Anna Miller, the policy and advocacy manager at Doctors of the World, said: “The charging regime has a negative impact on healthcare staff and patients. At the Doctors of the World’s clinic, we see destitute people seeking asylum who are denied healthcare or are too scared to even go to a hospital and suffer serious harm as a result. At the same time, NHS doctors and nurses are placed in an impossible position, prevented from providing healthcare to people who cannot afford to pay.”

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