Over the last year, many of you have joined us in raising concerns about the Immigration Act and the government’s proposals to introduce charging for primary and emergency healthcare for anybody who doesn’t have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. The Department of Health has now released its implementation plan and impact assessment for Phases 1-3 of its proposals to introduce charging for migrants and visitors to access the NHS.When will the charges be introduced?
The new charging scheme won’t come in all at once (it will be introduced in different phases). The implementation plan primarily relates to the migrant levy and the Department of Health’s procedures for improving collection of the current charges made for secondary health care. However, it is also relevant to Phase 4, currently scheduled for 2015, which introduces charges for primary and A&E healthcare. Crucially, the Impact Assessment released alongside the plan states that “Decisions about progressing with the later phases of the Programme will be based on, and contingent upon, demonstrated achievements in the earlier phases.” Given that the final formative evaluation will only be published in August 2015 we believe it is essential that no final decisions are made on Phase 4 until the final evaluation report is issued in August 2015. The approximate timetable for the introduction of the charges are as follows:
Oct-Nov 2014: Regulations to set the details of the surcharge levy and the charge for non EEA visitors to access secondary healthcare
March 2015: Interim report on implementation on phases 1-3
Spring 2015: Rollout of Health surcharge for visitors
Summer2015: Start to extend charging to some primary care and A&E services (likely to include pharmacy, dentistry, optical and community care)
August 2015: Final report on implementation on phases 1-3
Although exceptions will apply to refugees and people in the asylum process, refused asylum seekers will, in-theory, be charged for primary and emergency care. We are deeply concerned that the charging scheme will lead to vulnerable people being refused treatment because they cannot prove entitlement, do not qualify, or are wrongly refused treatment by healthcare professionals. Many others, both with and without entitlement, will simply not access GPs because of the multiple barriers presented by the registration/charging process.
We need to keep up the pressure! Get in touch with your local MP and make sure they’re aware of your concerns.
To find out more about this campaign and use our model letter to write to your representative, visit the Take Action page of our website: http://regionalasylumactivism.org/2014/02/14/defend-access-to-healthcare-2/. Do let us know about any replies you get from your MP!