While the NHS was set up to provide health care for all based on need & not an ability to pay, this is not the case for us all.
In April 2004 the Government tightened up restrictions on free health care to ‘overseas visitors’, in response to the perceived threat to the NHS of people coming to the UK specifically for free medical treatment. In fact, as pointed out by a 2006 Refugee Council report, there is no evidence to indicate the scale of such ‘health tourism’ & no specific examples of people migrating to the UK specifically for free health care. According to the Refugee Council, the main factors affecting the choice of country where individuals seek asylum is their language, family connections or historical connections between their country & the UK. Also, many asylum seekers simply do not have a choice of where they go as increasingly tighter border controls mean they may be smuggled into a country. It therefore seems ridiculous to suggest that asylum seekers come to the UK to receive free health care, when what it is they have come for is to escape war, torture & persecution.
Under Government legislation, refused asylum seekers are not generally eligible for free hospital treatment. While immediately necessary treatment in order to save life can be given, the recovery of the charge will be pursued as far as possible via invoices, threatening letters & even debt collection agencies. For example, a failed asylum seeker from Romania who had stomach cancer was billed £1085 for an operation & was refused radiotherapy until he could pay. Failed asylum seekers have to pay for things like treatments for cancer, diabetes & HIV & maternity care.
With such legislation, the UK Government continues its barbaric treatment of those seeking asylum & uses them as scapegoats for its own failings.
This article appeared in Gagged! #15