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Immigration Bill will have negative impact on health.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A coalition of health, migrant, children’s and refugee organisations has come out against Government proposals to limit migrant access to NHS services, some of which are included in the Immigration Bill which has its second reading today. 

The Government has consulted on extending NHS charges to primary care services, meaning that some migrants would have to pay to see a GP. Such charges would shut some vulnerable people, including children, out of the health system completely, with disastrous effects for individual and public health.   

While the Bill only includes some aspects of the proposed changes – chiefly the new Immigration Health Charge - it is vital that MPs give proper scrutiny to the full raft of proposals on regulating migrant access to the NHS. 

Essential public health programmes, including vaccinations for children, antenatal care and diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV and TB, rely on universal access to a GP. Extending charging rules to primary care would undermine these efforts. It runs contrary to the basic structure of our health service, where generalist primary care services are open to all. It will not be possible to regulate migrant access to GPs without making it more difficult for everyone to see a doctor. 

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust). said:

"These proposals will endanger not only the lives of people in migrant communities but will affect the health of the UK as a whole. Any plan to prevent thousands of people living here from accessing GPs would be counter-productive, bureaucratic, harming our health and adding more, unnecessary costs to an already stretched NHS."

Coalition of charities:  Doctors of the World, Freedom from Torture, Maternity Action, Medact, Migrant Rights Network, NAT, Still Human Still Here, Terrence Higgins Trust. 

Notes to the editor:

Read briefings  by NAT, Doctors of the World UK and Migrant Rights Network.