21/07/2009

Care For Those From Abroad In Focus

A UK-wide government review has concluded that some asylum seekers whose claims have been refused but who cannot return home should not be denied free NHS treatment.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of Science and Ethics at the BMA, said: "There are many people who have had an asylum claim refused, cannot return home, and need urgent treatment.

"This announcement, while positive, applies to only one group of people in this situation, and does not go far enough.

"We believe no-one whose asylum claim has been refused should be turned down for care which cannot be delayed, and which clinicians determine they need. Doing so affects our ability to control communicable disease, and ultimately puts additional pressure on the NHS, particularly on emergency services.

"The role of clinical staff is to determine what care a patient needs, and how urgently they need it - not to assess their immigration status.

"More must be done to ensure that those who need urgent care can access it."
News Image
Dr Nathanson welcomed the proposal for additional research on the policy of charging non-residents for HIV treatment beyond diagnosis: "The policy of refusing non-resident HIV patients treatment after diagnosis has public health implications. It carries the risk that their health will decline to the point at which costly emergency treatment is required.

"We would expect further research to cover these areas. A research-base to support policy in this area would be welcome."

Commenting on other recommendations from the joint Department of Health and Home Office review into access to the NHS by foreign nationals, Dr Nathanson said: "It seems sensible that residents who spend large periods of the year outside the UK - for example to avoid the British winter - do not lose their eligibility for NHS care.

"The possibility of a mandatory health insurance requirement for certain non-residents at a future date is worth considering but will be difficult to achieve in practice.

"The devil will be in the detail of making sure it works, is humane, and does not damage public health," the leading medic said.

(BMcC/KMcA)

Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

10 October 2005
Elderly mental health care criticised in new report
Older people suffering from mental health problems are facing a lack of adequate services and age discrimination, a charity report has revealed.
18 August 2011
Health Service Gets PM's Attention
The Prime Minister David Cameron and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today committed to continue listening to patients and health professionals on the future of the health service.
19 January 2011
Health Care Bill Puts Focus On Quality
Plans to modernise the National Health Service and put quality of patient care at the heart of everything it does were set out in the Health and Social Care Bill, published today.
13 May 2005
Hewitt pushes ahead with NHS reforms
In her first speech as Health Secretary this morning, Patricia Hewitt announced an extra 1.7 million operations in a deal worth around £3 billion over the next five years. Ms Hewitt denied that the plan was "dismantling the NHS." She said: "We are reforming and we will transform the NHS so that it is far better for patients.
26 March 2007
'Postcode lottery' remains in NHS dental care
There are "huge regional variations" in NHS dental care in England, consumer organisation Which? has warned in new research. The survey of 466 dentistry practices - which comes a year after the start of new NHS dentists' contract in England - found that just over a third (36%) are taking on any new NHS patients.