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Hospital comes under fire over immigration checks on patients

Information about those seeking treatment has been given to the Home Office as part of what critics say is the government’s ‘hostile environment’ crackdown

31 August, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Barts said it must ask for immigration information to determine whether patients can be treated under the NHS

A CAMPAIGN has been launched after Barts Hospital revealed it was contacting the Home Office to check on patients’ immigration status “up to 100 times a week”.

The NHS trust has been piloting a system where patients are asked to prove their eligibility on arrival at hospital before they get care.

Overseas patients have to pay for treatment on the NHS and the hospital is actively checking documentation.

Patient information – name, date of birth and address – is being given to the Home Office as part of what critics say is the government’s “hostile environment” crackdown.

NHS campaigners are asking for community and faith organisations, voluntary groups and residents to sign an open letter to Barts’ chief executive.

The letter says that the “dangerous and misguided government scheme” to charge overseas patients is wrongly denying “healthcare to thousands of people living in the UK, British citizens and migrant families alike”. It adds: “There are already too many cases in Barts Health Trust of vulnerable migrants being charged for care, of sick people being mistakenly denied access to free care, and of our friends, family and neighbours being fearful of approaching their doctor in case the information they provide is used to detain or deport them.”

Barts said it must ask for immigration information to determine whether patients can be treated under the NHS. Of 8,900 patients checked during the trial of the new system, just 50 were found liable to pay. A report to the Barts board last month admits that the Department of Health was passing information about “chargeable status patients” to immigration officials in the Home Office.

The report says: “The immigration status provided by the Home Office enables us to determine eligibility for NHS treatment, and therefore there is no internal appeals process.

“The trust is not charging anyone whose status is being reviewed by the Home Office following the Windrush controversy, and we will await the completion of these case reviews.”

The board papers add: “The trust has to balance its duty to manage its affairs in a financially responsible way against its obligations to deal with all patients without discrimination.

“We are committed to ensuring that our approach to identifying patients who are not eligible for NHS treatment is at all times transparent, equitable and fair.”

The lobby of the trust is being organised by North East London Save Our NHS group.

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