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Scrap charging migrants – it won’t save NHS money, researchers say

17 June 2015

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Requiring up-front NHS payment for migrants is a “shortsighted and misleading” government plan, researchers say.

Requiring up-front NHS payment for migrants is a “shortsighted and misleading” government plan, researchers say.

The newly implemented policy imposes an up-front surcharge of £200 per year to guarantee access to NHS hospital care for people from outside the European Economic Area when they submit an application to work, study, or visit their families in the UK for a period of longer than six months – or when they are applying to extend their visas.

This healthcare surcharge (called the ‘immigration health surcharge’) as part of your immigration application. Those who cannot pay will automatically have their application rejected.

“The UK government is wrong to assume that charging migrants for access to health services will strongly reduce the strain on NHS resources,” the lead researchers Lilana Keith from the platform for international cooperation on undocumented migrants and Ewout van Ginneken, senior researcher European Observatory said in the British Medical Journal this week.

“The UK government wants the public to believe that the changes being proposed will make the country less appealing to undocumented migrants and will save taxpayers’ money.

This view is short-sighted and misleading, say the authors. They suggest that not having access to preventive services may lead to outbreaks, with subsequent costs to the health system and wider society. Restricting access to services based on residence status also requires complex administration, itself a major burden on the NHS.

“This policy alone makes the UK an outlier in Europe,” they write. No other EU country has such a structural link between immigration applications and access to health services.

The government is also considering charging undocumented migrants for emergency and primary services which are currently provided free of charge.

“Rather than holding a public consultation on extending charging to emergency and primary care, as the freshly elected Conservative government plans to do, the evidence indicates that the opposite approach would serve the UK and its NHS better. They should explore ways to provide non-discriminatory access to the NHS for all," they said.


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