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Court of Appeal Judgment Leaves Refused Asylum Seekers without a Right to Free Healthcare

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today the Court of Appeal judgment overturned the decision of the High Court that refused asylum seekers should be able to access free NHS care whilst in the UK. In particular, the Court of Appeal ruled that refused asylum seekers were not ‘ordinarily resident’ for the purposes of the law.

However the Court of Appeal did find that the Department of Health was acting unlawfully in not clearly providing guidance to write off the debt of those who need healthcare but are destitute.

Commenting on the judgment, Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (the National AIDS Trust), said:

“We are very disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeal. There are probably hundreds of thousands of people living in the UK who are unable to access affordable healthcare. This undermines social cohesion, increases avoidable illness and death, harms vulnerable children and older people, and contributes to the spread of infectious disease.

In the short term, much stronger guidance on access to healthcare and debt write-off will be welcome. But the fear of bills will continue to deter many people from accessing the care they need, including people who are in fact entitled to free treatment.

The Government must use its current review of healthcare charges to end its policy of enforced ill-health for the most destitute in our society. This policy has no impact on immigration controls. It simply harms our public health and our claim to be a decent society.”

Notes to the editor:

For further information please contact
Jane Hillier
020 7814 6759
07947 725 299