Barts and the ‘Hostile Environment’

At this month’s Barts Board meeting we again followed up with our questions concerning Barts Trust and its complicity in implementing the ‘Hostile Environment’ policy which the Tory Government continues to pursue. First, however, we asked why without notice the meeting had been cut short by 45 minutes. The Chair made some allusion to a mysterious topic which they needed to look at after the public had left. In the event we were unable to have two of our questions answered because of lack of time. These will presumably be answered at the next session.

There were 6 of us present from NELSONHS and NSONHS . My questions, to which they were unable to answer concerned the Liberty document ” Care Don’t Share’. This alluded to the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Checking and Advice Service which Trusts can pay to access. I wanted to know if Barts used this service and what they paid for it.

The second question concerned the 3 year contract Barts had contracted out to an American company called the Institute of Healthcare Improvement . Despite the wealth of expertise inside the NHS Barts had chosen to pay a private company. Why, we asked, were they being so secretive about what they were paying them . Why, we continued, are these costs not being made public now but were instead being delayed and where and when would these costs be revealed on the Barts website? No answers as yet.

We did get answers to our questions about asset sales. An asset sale raising £60m did not in the end take place so that the Trust’s deficit was overly optimistic. We asked about secret locations for sale which they denied existed . Actually part of the Mile End site is due to be sold.

We asked too about massive loans taken out from the Department of Health ( £96m this year) and the associated risk to funding for areas such as fire safety and medical equipment. They insisted that these risks had been rigorously assessed .

We then asked about the Hostile Environment. Last year the Trust met us twice to discuss this but were slow to answer our questions. They sent up to 100 names per week to the Home Office and we know that they made errors. They are playing with people’s lives here. The Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Public Health have all expressed their opposition to NHS overseas charging but Barts continues to implement this policy. Concerns were raised by these professional bodies about individual health and risks to public health and the probable poorer patient outcomes and drop in staff morale associated with the damage to trust between staff and their patients. The Trust told us that they would address these concerns in a reply by the end of the month. They have, they said, met with Healthwatch groups and will be contacting community groups about these issues. So again we face delays in addressing these concerns as at present it just looks like Barts will continue with this racist and discriminatory policy which does nothing to ameliorate the financial pressures they face but does a lot to discriminate against ethnic minority communities.

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