On the ‘wall of shame’ in my office is an e-mail I received from the Department of Health (DoH) on 18th November 2008. It was an e-mail regarding MRCF’s submission to a consultation about proposals to exclude certain groups of migrants from free NHS care. The reason why this sort of innocent e-mail is on the ‘wall of shame’ is not its content, but the time it took to receive it. My original e-mail was sent, ironically, to the Choice and Rights team at the DoH on 13th August 2004! Yes, it took just over four years to get a reply! The withdrawal of healthcare for some groups of migrants created huge confusion amongst service providers and damage to people and communities. Last year MRCF supported a young black Frenchmen who had been denied healthcare for nearly three months, largely because he did not speak English and probably because assumptions were made about his migration status. It took an army of support staff and volunteers finally to have him admitted to a hospital. Soon after he was admitted we received calls from an NHS Compliance officer asking us who was going to pay for his treatment although as an EU citizen he was entitled to free NHS care it took a while for them to establish that. This young man has been transferred back to France, and he will be paralysed for the rest of his life. His mental health was also severely affected. We do not know if could have been saved, but we do know that he endured months of unnecessary suffering because he was denied the treatment that he was entitled to.
And now they are at it again! The DoH is consulting again in the light of an April 2009 Court of Appeal ruling which found that their guidance was not very clear. It is therefore very important that we all feed into this process and help make it clear. To support us there is a very useful resource available on the Medact website. They along with Medsin have launched a resource entitled ‘Respond’. The aim of the website is to provide a resource for those responding to the Department of Health consultation, Review of Access to the NHS by Foreign Nationals.
The consultation closes on June 30, 2010.The website can be found at http://respondtonhscharging.wordpress.com
I urge you to use this resource including a short video clearly explaining the issues and communicate your experiences to the DoH.