Immigration Bill

Written evidence submitted by Dr Sally Stewart (IB 37)

I am a GP working at a practice that only registers people who are homeless, seeking asylum in the UK, refugees and other vulnerable groups. The practice currently has 1024 patients registered who are seeking asylum in the UK. The practice is very worried about the impact of the proposed bill to deny primary care to failed asylum seekers, except in an emergency.

Firstly: A doctor's ethical duty is to treat any patient who comes to him/her with a medical need. It is not part of a doctor's duty to find out if that person is eligible for treatment under the NHS.

I strongly feel that the bill infringes my right as a doctor to treat my patients.

Secondly: from a purely practical point of view, it is illogical for our staff to charge patients who are failed asylum seekers and are therefore destitute. Every day we have around 70 appointments available, with 1024 patients who are asylum seekers, this would create a huge workload if we had to check every person’s status every time they needed to book an appointment.

Thirdly: Our patients seeking asylum have a heavy burden of mental health illnesses. We have a high incidence of patients presenting in crisis with suicidal ideation. One patient in the past, set himself on fire due to the stress of the asylum process. These patients need a great deal of support to prevent admissions to the mental health unit. As I am sure you are aware, poor mental health has a negative impact on physical health. Add in the higher risk of patients who have blood borne viruses, including HIV and increased rates of TB – this results in a danger to the public health of other members of their communities. We have seen patients who are failed asylum seekers with chronic diseases suffer a great deal from being refused routine hospital appointments, resulting in frequent emergency admissions - which are also much more expensive.

I support the BMAs concerns as to the impact of this bill.

November 2013

Prepared 20th November 2013