FSRH has co-signed a letter along with Doctors of the World UK, the National AIDS Trust (NAT) and other organisations asking Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt to consider withdrawing the NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Amendment Regulations 2017. This instrument amends the 2015 Regulations that stipulate charging foreigners for NHS services provided in England.
NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Amendment Regulations 2017 amends 2015 regulations and extends charging to apply to non-NHS providers of NHS-funded secondary and community care, requiring charging for secondary and community care delivered outside of a hospital setting. These changes are the result of further work undertaken by the Department of Health’s Visitor and Migrant NHS Cost Recovery Programme since 2015.
The NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Amendment Regulations 2017 will:
• Extend charging to apply to non-NHS providers of NHS-funded secondary and community care
• Require all relevant organisations to obtain upfront payment for the full estimated cost of care unless doing so would prevent or delay the provision of immediately necessary or urgent treatment
• Require charging for secondary and community care delivered outside of a hospital setting
• Require NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts to ‘flag’ an overseas visitor’s NHS record (identified using the patient’s “unique identifier” or NHS number) to indicate whether the person is chargeable. In practice, this will include marking a patient’s record with the correct red or green ‘banner’
• Remove assisted conception services from those services that a surcharge payer can receive free of charge
Amongst others, people who will still be required to pay for certain types of healthcare include people with no immigration permission and refused asylum seekers who are not currently receiving support from the Home Office or a local authority under the Care Act. The measures that affect non-NHS providers will come into force on 23 October 2017.
FSRH is concerned that the proposed amendments, especially up-front charging and mandatory proof of eligibility for free care, will place an extra burden on vulnerable women and girls who already find it difficult to access SRH services. Confusion over who is entitled to free care will deter women and girls from seeking medical advice and receiving the care they need, resulting in an increase of unplanned pregnancies and Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Jane Hatfield, CEO of the FSRH, said:
“FSRH believes in a UK where sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) is open access and accessible to everyone, regardless of their citizenship status. Our vision is not restricted to one care setting; it applies across the health sector where SRH is an element. Sometimes this means providing free, confidential and non-judgemental SRH services for vulnerable populations, including paperless migrants, in hard-to-reach areas.
Access to SRH services, including safe and effective contraception and abortion, is vital for women to avoid unplanned pregnancies, curbing future costs in the NHS system. Above all, access to SRH services is integral to realising women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights. We call on the Government to launch a public consultation on the amendments.”
Download the open letter and FSRH's comment on the Amendment Regulations 2017 below.