FAQ

This video presents some key facts about Docs Not Cops:

Why ‘Docs Not Cops’?
We are a group of people who have come together to defend access to healthcare for everyone in the context of policies included in The 2014 Immigration Act, for instance, which will mean that all migrants are made to pay for healthcare. We are called Docs Not Cops because we believe the new regulations force healthcare workers to behave more like “immigration enforcement officers” – NHS staff will be forced to check the immigration status of people who come to them for help. Patient information will be shared with the Home Office, even if people decide not to go through with treatment.

What changes will result from these new regulations?
They make it even harder for people without a British passport to access healthcare in this country – people will need to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years to access the NHS for free, even if they are legally employed and paying taxes. It will also mean that the most vulnerable migrants, those without legal status, will be less likely to access the healthcare they need. This will make a bad situation worse – most migrants in London already don’t go to a GP, even though they are eligible to. Though the government tell us that shutting migrants out of the NHS will save the taxpayer money, the truth is that untreated health conditions don’t go away. They become more serious and more expensive problems in the long run. The bottom line is that people could die because of this government policy.

When will the regulations come into place?
Hospitals are required by law to check who is eligible for free health care from April 2017.

But shouldn’t migrants ‘pay into the system’ if they want to use the NHS?
Migrants do pay for the NHS! The fact is that they are actually net contributors to the NHS. Some migrants even work as doctors, nurses and support workers. Most migrants who are in the country legally pay taxes, and contribute to National Insurance.  Even those who are here without visas contribute to the UK economy through VAT.  We think it’s unethical and unproductive to differentiate healthcare access based on national origin, and to punish the most vulnerable people in our society.  In the long run, it only makes overall public health much worse.

But isn’t ‘health tourism’ a drain on the NHS?
Certain politicians would have us believe that ‘health tourism’ (i.e. people coming to the UK just to use the NHS) is a big and expensive problem. The Daily Mail, has proclaimed that this so-called phenomenon costs us £200 billion. This is simply not true, and no reliable evidence has been provided. The NHS itself admits that the number of ‘health tourists’ is “small” and hard to estimate. Even Health Minister Jeremy Hunt estimates the cost at £12 million a year – this is money that the NHS is unable to get back from visitors from abroad who have accessed chargeable treatment. That figure even includes money that the NHS couldn’t get back because patients later died. £12m is about 0.06% of savings that the NHS is being forced to make.

Put simply, health tourism is a tiny portion of the NHS budget – and implementing this bill will not come cheap.

How much will changing the system cost?
We don’t know yet – but it will mean a whole new computer system allowing the Home Office and the NHS to share information quickly. The Home Office and the NHS have wasted millions in recent years on failed new computer systems. In August 2014 the Home Office had to pay over £220 million to an American company after they decided they didn’t want the new computer system the company was offering. Last year, it came out that a scrapped computerised record system for the NHS had cost the taxpayer £10 billion. So who’s really costing the NHS?

I’m a UK citizen – why should I care?
You should care because these regulations will affect all of us. As well as the suffering it will cause to your neighbours who will become unable to pay for healthcare, or those who will be too afraid to access it, they will also have a huge impact on overall public health. People suffering from infectious diseases will be too scared to visit GPs and may not get their conditions diagnosed until very late, and those diseases will worsen and become bigger problems. Though the Government has made assurances that infectious disease treatments (such as those for TB and HIV) will remain free under the new system, patient records can be shared with the Home Office even if the person decides not to go through with treatment [link to pdf]. This means that anyone with an irregular migration status will most likely be deterred from visiting a GP.  What good is free treatment if you haven’t had a check-up and don’t realise you have a condition?

The regulations will also have a wider impact on the NHS, and we believe they represent a complete dismantling of its founding ideals. The measures will put in place infrastructure that may later allow the NHS to extend charging to other groups of patients. The 4th and final stage of the Department of Health’s implementation plan for this programme is “Extending Charging.” When the NHS was founded in 1948, one of its founding principles was that “it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay.” This programme threatens to reverse that principle for ever larger groups of people in our society.

But our NHS was never intended to treat foreigners!

Actually, it was!  In 1952, Aneurin Bevan — the ‘father of the NHS’ — wrote this in an essay called In Place of Fear: ‘One of the consequences of the universality of the British Health Service is the free treatment of foreign visitors. This has given rise to a great deal of criticism, most of it ill-informed and some of it deliberately mischievous. Why should people come to Britain and enjoy the benefits of the free Health Service when they do not subscribe to the national revenues? So the argument goes. No doubt a little of this objection is still based on the confusion about contributions to which I have referred. The fact is, of course, that visitors to Britain subscribe to the national revenues as soon as they start consuming certain commodities, drink and tobacco for example, and entertainment.”

Bevan understood that these arguments were ugly, unfair and politically motivated: “The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilized principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialized medicine.”

What will it mean for healthcare workers?
These racist laws also fail to recognise that the NHS only functions because of the non-EU migrant workers who work for it. In NHS England, 11% of all staff, and 26% of doctors are non-EU citizens. That means a significant proportion of NHS staff will be restricted from accessing NHS services that they themselves provide. These NHS employees are restricted by immigration laws, which stop them from bringing their family to the UK and living with the same freedoms as someone with a British passport.

Who will have to pay?
The new regulations will mean that temporary migrants and students from outside the EU and Switzerland will have to pay an annual charge before they enter the country. “Temporary migrants” includes anyone without a status called Indefinite Leave to Remain, which you can’t apply for unless you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years. So, even people who have arrived here legally and are working will have to pay. That’s just the start, though – the Immigration Act sets a precedent which may give future governments the right to extend charging to other groups whenever they want.

How much will they have to pay?
Initially, temporary migrants will have to pay £200 a year for health services. Students will pay £150. However, as we have seen with other charges imposed for state services, such as university tuition fees, the bill is likely to rise.

What are the alternatives to these measures?
The NHS is in crisis, There is too little funding to keep services running, and too little investment in staff and services to keep patients safe. Instead of ending the scam PFI contracts that squeeze our health service, it is NHS staff that see their wages drop and patients whose care suffers as services are run with skeleton staffing.

Rather than facing up to these financial pressures, the Government scapegoats migrants, blaming health tourism and undocumented migrants rather than their own ruinious austerity policies. They claim that charging migrants 150% of their hospital bills is a “priority” for saving money in the NHS. If it really wants to increase the government coffers, it could start by, for example, establishing a better system to charge the global corporations making huge profits from UK operations while dodging UK taxes.