The NHS has always given free health care to UK residents. Its founding principles were healthcare free for all, regardless of ability to pay. This was a universal right, which applied to all who lived in Britain.
Under the Immigration Act 2014, the government is planning to charge certain migrants for GP and emergency treatment. Non-EU migrants and students will be forced to pay before being allowed NHS treatment, and refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants will be excluded from many crucial services.
This will fundamentally undermine the right to healthcare enjoyed by all since 1948, and ultimately hurt all of us.
Instituting this scheme will drive vulnerable migrants away from NHS services. It will force doctors and health services to question peoples immigration status, to ascertain whether they have the right piece of paper which guarantees them the free treatment we currently enjoy. No one should be afraid to go to the doctor, either because they can’t pay or might be punished. No doctors should not have to police the people they treat.
The costs of this could be immense. If diseases are untreated, they spread and become more expensive problems. Its easy to treat a small cut, or the early stage of a contagious disease. Its much harder, and more expensive, to treat a gangrenous limb, or treat the many other patients created because the original infectious patient did not have easy access to treatment.
The Government claims these new laws will save the UK money, this is not true. There is little accurate research on health tourism. What little there is points to health tourism bringing in more money than it costs the NHS.
More importantly, charging migrants for healthcare is the first step to normalising charging for everyone. Once the government has a charging system in place, it becomes much easier to gradually expand this to everyone else, regardless of nationality. Racism is being used to undermine our societies commitment to universal healthcare, and the values of social solidarity which bind our society together.
These charges and the ideology behind them are based on prejudice, not evidence. They scapegoat migrants for the problems caused by government policy towards the NHS.
The NHS needs reforms that will help everyone. Not reforms that attack the vulnerable and will only lead to more charges for all.
The NHS pledge to universal healthcare has been challenged since its inception. In this quote from 1952, Nye Bevan could be responding to Cameron’s attack on the NHS.
Bevan wrote: “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.”
Bevan goes on to say how, even if you don’t believe humans have a right to health and to life, restricting migrants access to the NHS fails to understand how migrants already contribute through taxes, and the work they do in society. It is unfounded, racist rhetoric. As Nye said “The whole agitation has a nasty taste”.
These laws destroy the original values of the NHS; for treatment based on need, not ability to pay or nationality.
Docs Not Cops is a group of people who oppose the new laws. We are fighting to protect the NHS, one of the best things about Britain.
We are doctors, nurses, HIV activists, students, teachers and laypeople.
Everyone is invited to join us because these new laws will affect everyone.
The new law comes into affect on April 6th.
Visit our website and become part of the campaign. Organise a stunt or protest at your local hospital to mark the occasion. Distribute Docs Not Cops materials to let staff and patients know what is happening to our NHS, and get them active in the campaign.
Together we can roll back this law and maintain healthcare as a universal right. If we allow this to divide us, it will hurt us for generations to come.