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Stop NHS Charges Now!
Open letter to Calderdale and Kirklees MPs, Councillors, Calderdale and Hudderfield NHS Foundation Trust and MidYorks Trust
At this critical time when it is vital that there is unfettered access for all to the NHS, we are writing to you to urge you to take action to remove from our NHS all barriers to health care faced by overseas workers, migrants and anyone with undocumented status living in the UK.
The pandemic has highlighted:
- That people born outside the UK account for almost a quarter of all staff working in hospitals and a fifth of all health and social care staff in the UK. (1) Not only are our health and social care systems disproportionately reliant on overseas workers but staff from black and minority ethnic communities are dying from Covid-19 at a much higher rate than others and almost half of those staff who have died were born overseas. (2) On 21st May, after strong pressure from MPs, the government announced it would exempt NHS and care workers from NHS charges “as soon as possible”. (3) But a month later, the Prime Minister was unable to say when the exemption will take effect.(4) And the NHS charge remains in place for other overseas workers. The NHS charge needs to be abolished, for the reasons outlined below.
- That there is an uncomfortable and unjust disjuncture between the selfless work of staff from overseas who pay the same taxes as we do and the fact that they have to pay hefty fees to use the same NHS many of them are working so hard to sustain! These fees are currently over £400 per year but the Govt. has been planning to raise them to £625 and this applies not just to the staff member but each member of their family. For example a worker from abroad with a partner and two children will have to pay £2,500 a year. The Home office acknowledged that the fees raised only £300m a year between 2015 and 2018. They were part of hostile environment legislation designed to deter immigration to the UK. (5)
- That creating barriers to using the NHS for migrants and other undocumented residents in the UK is unsafe for all of us as well as generating fear and anxiety. Although treatment for Covid-19 is free, fear of charging down the line and of being reported to the Home Office by health authorities deters those people with uncertain status from using the NHS. Everyone must now feel confident to seek treatment as needed and to aid in tracing contacts of anyone identified as infected with the virus (6) a strategy the World Health Organisation is urging all countries to adopt (7). Ireland, Portugal and South Korea have already taken action to remove barriers. In the UK sixty cross party MPs have sent a letter to the Health Secretary calling for the immediate suspension of charging for migrants and all associated data sharing between the NHS and the Home office (8). It follows a similar demand to Government from medical groups including the British Medical Association and Doctors of the World UK.
We believe that now, more than ever, it is vital to end the hostile environment in the NHS and ensure unfettered access for everyone to free health care. We are one community!
We therefore call on our MPs to urge the Government:
- to drop surcharges for health care on workers from overseas
- stop all migrant charges and publicise this widely to encourage people to use the NHS when needed
We call on Halifax, Huddersfield and Dewsbury NHS hospitals to:
- Suspend the NHS charges and stop reporting patient details and debt to the Home Office
- Take down all “hostile environment“ notices from hospitals and clinics
- Convey to the public that your hospital intends to treat everyone, freely and regardless of immigration status, as part of the effort to contain COVID-19
We call on Calderdale and Kirklees Councils to give substance to the title of Calderdale’s Valley of Sanctuary, and Sanctuary Kirklees by:
- Doing all in their power to support and encourage ending health charges to migrants and health surcharges on staff from overseas
We call on trade unions, political party branches/constituencies and community organisations
- To endorse and publicise this letter to your members and use your political influence to pursue these demands.
- BMJ Covid-19: Contact tracing requires ending the hostile environment. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1320.full
- BMJ editorial “Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO’s advice?” https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1284
- Stephanie Clarke
- Rosemary Hedges
- Anne Marie Hutchinson
- Colin Hutchinson
- Chrissie Parker
- Jenny Shepherd, HX7 8
- Andrea English, HD6 3
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