Dear Andy Burnham,
As the Mayor of Greater Manchester, I am writing to you as a resident of Greater Manchester, a supporter of the NHS, and a member KONP and Stockport NHSWatch to alert you to the serious risk to the health and welfare of undocumented migrants and wider population of Greater Manchester. This is posed by the continuation of the government’s NHS Charges Policy and immigrations checks upon undocumented Migrants, referred to as “the hostile environment”.
The principles of this policy have from their inception conflicted with the core values upon which our National Health Service was created, namely provision of health care on the basis of clinical need regardless of the ability pay. In the case of asylum seekers and undocumented Migrants this policy was clearly targeted against some of the most vulnerable people living in the UK who sought refuge from torture and persecution.
From a public health perspective, the policy has always posed serious public health risks to the UK Population as a whole which has always far outweighed the economic savings that such a policy was purported to save.
The government has amended this policy to clarify migrant access to NHS services for the purposes of testing and treatment of Covid 19. However, there remains evidence that the impact of government’s cruel and punitive treatment of asylum seekers and migrant groups, and its continued policy of linking eligibility for citizenship with the impact of charges for medical care, has resulted in undocumented migrants and asylum seekers avoiding seeking medical treatment from NHS services for fear this could trigger referral to immigration services.
At a time when the country is gripped by a lethal virus that requires every person residing within it to come forward to seek treatment to control this disease, the continuation of this Governments Migrant Charging policy for health and its hostile and punitive approach to migrant groups is currently working against the public health interests of everyone living in the UK and they can be no rational justification for its continuation at this time.
Evidence from medical bodies and migrant groups also indicates the continuation of this policy has caused individual deaths and considerable pain and trauma to already vulnerable and traumatised people. This in itself is a moral stain upon our country. (see Attached link)
For these two reasons alone, I would ask you to use your political influence to work with fellow Metro Mayors, MP’s, Metro Labour Mayors and Councils, Organisations representing Health Care professionals, Trade Unions and the wider Labour movement to seek the immediate suspension of Migrant Charging policy for NHS services during the Coronavirus crisis.
As Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester I would urge you to use your influential role in having overall responsibility for the strategic provision of Public Health Services in the region, to take the follow actions
- Publicly call for the suspension of Migrant charging policy during this Coronavirus Crisis.
- Use your powers through the GMHSA to issue instructions/guidance to NHS Trusts and CCG’s to suspend migrant charging and immigration checks during this current Coronavirus health crisis.
- Adopt the recommendations of the Medact paper “Patients not Passports” paper pertaining to NHS Trusts and where appropriate NHS primary care and Social care services.
- Issue a public announcement and public information to actively encourage undocumented Migrants and others adversely impacted by the governments “Hostile environment”, to actively engage with health care agencies without fear of referral to Immigration services. Establish links with faith groups and organisations representing the rights of Migrants to ensure the effective delivery of this message.
- Convene a meeting with faith groups, representatives of Trade Unions, Health Care professionals and migrant campaign groups, to develop more inclusive health services for Migrant groups and to eliminate current and future public health risks posed by the Government’s Migrants Health Care Charging Policy.
- Convene a meeting with Public Health professionals at GM and Local Authority levels to establish an inclusive policy of access to basic medical checks, testing, and contact tracing for all residents regardless of background. A policy that effectively uses local knowledge and public health resources to ensure Covid19 is managed effectively at a regional GM and local level during the course of any future plan to relax the terms of the current lockdown policy.
Phillip J Welldrake
Member of Manchester KONP & Stockport NHSWatch