At 8.30am on 5th April, the entrance to the Department of Health (DoH) was blocked by a makeshift immigration checkpoint, manned by NHS patients and staff protesting plans to introduce upfront charging for care throughout the NHS.
The disruptive action, organised by campaign group ‘Docs not Cops’ comes after Jeremy Hunt’s announcement that, as of April 2017, NHS trusts would be legally required to check patients’ eligibility upfront and demand payment before providing secondary care.
Although the government positions this as a cost-saving measure, the figures don’t add up. The DoH’s own estimate is that ‘deliberate health tourism’ costs only 0.03% of the NHS budget annually. Docs not Cops believe this policy will lead to discrimination and racial profiling, and will destroy patients’ relationship with NHS workers.
These checks will prevent those most in need of care from getting the treatment they need. This is already evident in the case of pregnant migrant women, where some destitute refugee women are being frightened away from maternity services due to NHS trusts issuing letters demanding payment of thousands of pounds. Docs not Cops, a group formed by NHS workers and patients to combat racism in the NHS, encourage all healthcare workers to sign up to their pledge to refuse to comply with the new policy.
We believe no one should be afraid to access the healthcare they need, either because they can’t pay or might be punished, and that NHS workers should not be forced to police the people they treat.
“This policy will completely undermine patients’ trust in the NHS, which in turn will put people’s lives at risk. We are calling for a campaign of non-compliance because it’s the right thing to do for our patients and for the future of the NHS.”
Zoe, Academic Clinical Fellow Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Addenbrooke’s and The Rosie Hospitals, Cambridge.
“Jeremy Hunt keeps saying this will balance the NHS budget, but the numbers just don’t add up. This shameful exercise is about Jeremy Hunt shifting the blame and the cost of austerity onto the most marginalised and vulnerable people.”
Helen, Docs Not Cops Organiser