Immigration Bill

Written evidence from Doctors of the World UK (IB 06)

Immigration Bill: Access to healthcare for excluded groups in the UK

Thank you for your efforts to scrutinise the Immigration Bill.

Doctors of the World has been providing free medical and patient advocacy services with and for vulnerable, excluded patients in London for the last seven years.

Our patients include destitute migrants, trafficked women, and pregnant women who are not getting the medical care they need, including antenatal care. Typically our patients have lived in the UK for three years before seeking healthcare; most do not know there is a health service that they may be entitled to use – those that do are often refused treatment.

Whilst we believe that patients who are ineligible for free care should pay for treatment, we are concerned that destitute migrants already living here may experience more barriers to the essential healthcare they need. Volunteers at our London clinic report that some GP practices are already refusing to register these patients because they are implementing "new" regulations, which don’t yet exist. And we remain concerned about the implications on clinicians and their duty of care regarding any changes linked to requirements to check immigration status, and more broadly about public health.

I enclose our policy paper on these issues in case helpful

As you scrutinise the Immigration Bill further, we would respectfully ask that consideration is given to how efforts to manage migration can also ensure fair and equitable access to healthcare for everyone living in the UK; including through much-needed guidance to clinicians and administrators about entitlement rules. We would also ask that consideration is given to the need for any new measures to assure public health and to protect the doctor-patient relationship. We strongly assert a doctor’s right to treat every patient without discrimination.

Thank you for considering our experience.

October 2013

Prepared 31st October 2013