Health experts say the burden of migrants using NHS hospital services is life-threatening and should be scrapped to prevent further coronavirus deaths this winter.
Doctors of the World of Great Britain (DOTW), the School of Public Health (FPH) and Lancet Migration – a research branch of the medical journal – have launched a campaign to call for “universal and equitable access” to NHS services during Covid-19 Pandemic and after.
To date, more than 20 organizations have joined the government in calling for the “immediate suspension of NHS fee regulations, which pose a serious public health risk and cause unnecessary suffering and death to some of the UK’s most vulnerable people. like destitute migrants. “
The group accused the government of failing to act, arguing that the change was “urgently needed” to ensure that no controls are carried out and no data is exchanged to ensure that no one is out for fear of enforcement of immigration laws Avoids seeking medical care.
The group launched the campaign, saying, “The government cannot afford to ignore the experts and the wealth of evidence any longer.
“If migrant and refugee populations are not included in the UK’s Covid-19 response at this critical time, public health measures to combat the virus will be unfair and ineffective.
“The Covid-19 pandemic clearly shows that nobody is protected if not everyone is protected.”
The group has called for an end to the fee schedule, which means that NHS trusts in England have to charge migrants living in the UK for most hospital services.
Any treatment that is not urgent could also be withheld until the patient pays in full, they warned.
The regime affects the most vulnerable, such as victims of human trafficking and asylum seekers. The group cited a DOTW study earlier this year that found that some “excluded groups” were not reported to home office during the pandemic for fear of being charged or reported to the EU, despite an exception for coronavirus -Tests and treatments were given.
Anna Miller, Head of Policy and Legal Affairs at DOTW UK, part of the Medecins du Monde humanitarian network, said: “At our clinic, we see patients who are too scared to go to the hospital if they are billed for that they have no chance of ever being able to pay.
“Often these are people who are already living in very difficult circumstances, without a safe home or enough money to meet their basic food and clothing needs.
“On the way into winter, nobody wants a situation where people cannot get medical help when they need it or are forced to deal with health conditions on their own.”
Professor Maggie Rae, President of the FPH, which has nearly 4,000 public health workers, said: “Preventing a vulnerable group from accessing health care during a global pandemic is a clear public health threat. Not only do we risk the lives of those affected by these regulations, many of whom are already the victims of terrible circumstances, but the lives of those with whom they come in contact. “
While NHS general practitioner Dr. Lucinda Hiam said she is seeing “firsthand” the impact the charges are having on patients, adding, “They cause suffering, delays in treatment and discourage those in need from seeing a doctor or nurse when needed.”
The Lancet fully supports the campaign, its Editor-in-Chief Jocalyn Clark said, adding, “Without equitable and universal access to NHS care, we will not be able to fully protect our communities in the face of rising Covid-19 rates.”