Positive Step Forward in Fight Against the ‘Hostile Environment’ in the NHS

NEWSON ( Newham Save Our NHS ) issued a Press release at the end of last month attacking the hostile environment policy at Newham General University hospital. We congratulated Newham Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Commission for recommending their Draft Report on Newham University Hospital Improvement, which is confirmed by the Council Scrutiny Officer, Robert Brown, as now being in the public domain. The Newham draft report confirms ( para 28) that Barts NHS Trust “continue to use the Home Office Immigration Enforcement Checking and Advice Service.” .” Also highlighted in the Newham Council report , however, (para 29) is the recommendation by the national doctors’ organisation, The Royal College of Physicians, that these regulations about charging some people for NHS care is a “barrier to care.” The doctors in The Faculty for Public Health agree, since denying some people free NHS care has “potential implications for public Health.”

Rosamund Mykura from NEWSON said that sending patients names to the Home Office along with other information such as passport numbers, debt status etc. is detrimental to public health. The Home Office has helped deny free care to patients based on mistaken data. Barts should desist from passing on information about migrants to the Home Office . Even the House of Commons committee for Public accounts has said that the Home office is “ making life-changing decisions on people’s rights , based on incorrect data which is not fit for purpose.” Some patients have been charged thousands of pounds, including for a child birth at Newham hospital.

Newham Save our NHS says to Newham Council, in its Press Release “We urge Newham Council to go further and to join with Barts NHS Trust to warn the government that using NHS staff for immigration control, is damaging to the NHS. Newham patients may delay or avoid treatment through fear, or be targetted by debt collectors or by government immigration control who run a Home Office system that is complex, which makes mistakes and which is unfit for purpose.”Stephen Timms MP shared our concerns with the hostile environment and Lynn Brown MP has consistently asked questions on this during PM’s question time following a meeting with our campaign group. The draft report having been approved by the Chair is to be formally presented at the next full Council meeting in July.

A local campaign group, Magpie, have taken their concerns about the Hostile Environment to the “Guardian”. In the article they express concerns over the fact that some children in Newham have been denied access to local council services and free health care because of their parents’ immigration status. NEWSON will be taking these and other concerns to a private meeting with CCG managers from Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest who collectively manage NHS issues under the umbrella of the WEL in the near future .

Our campaign against migrant charging is now over a year old. It is of concern that Barts has refused to take up this issue with the Home Office. They argue that as a Trust it is not in their remit to protest to Government departments. Nevertheless, the draft report by Scrutiny and its endorsement by Newham Council, assuming they abide by the Chair’s endorsement, represents a significant step in the right direction .

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