Supporting Migrants to Access Healthcare

20 March 2020
Akram Salhab

The COVID-19 Pandemic has thrown fresh light and scrutiny on our NHS. Alongside the heroism of healthcare workers and the hard work being done to counter the virus, the crisis has also reinforced the importance of an inclusive and truly universal healthcare system, free at the point of use for everybody. Only in this way can the virus be successfully countered.

Over the past years, however, the Government has eroded this principle by charging migrants for using the NHS. This has had severe and now well documented consequences for many migrants, and has created a more generalised fear and reluctance in migrant communities to seek healthcare when they need it. In the context of a global pandemic, this presents serious challenges for any health service.

Treatment for COVID-19 (and all communicable diseases) is free for everybody, however many migrants may not know this. There are important mechanisms of support and demands that local communities can make in order to ensure that everybody can access care.

Below is a list of actions you can take now. To learn how to support local migrant communities, and to be kept up to date, please join Medact’s Patients Not Passport mailing list

We will send regular information for your local mutual aid group, and can be contacted for any questions at: jamesskinner@medact.org

  1. If it is safe for you to do so, join a Mutual aid group. A list of local groups can be found here https://covidmutualaid.org/
    • If you are involved with a Mutual Aid group, check out this guide produced by Migrants Organise, JCWI, Medact and Docs Not Cops on how to support migrants.
  2. We need to make sure that people know that they will not be charged for treatment for suspected or confirmed coronavirus. We have seen in Italy communities singing together in solidarity on their balconies, coming together to support each other at this time. We now need to be shouting loud and clear as well: healthcare access for all. The risk of COVID-19 spreading is only increased if any group in society is left behind from the response.
  3. Share our healthcare access info card in your mutual aid group, so people know their healthcare rights.
  4. Safeguards for the health of migrants are needed as they are already put at risk by Hostile Environment policies. We need to make sure no-one is penalised for self-isolation, no-one pushed into a precarious immigration status,  and no-one is denied access to public services. Add your voice to our joint letter with JCWI and Liberty calling for an end to the Hostile Environment

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