In October 2017, the Government introduced regulations extending NHS charges to community healthcare services for overseas visitors. On the basis of the strong evidence we have submitted, FSRH is asking for the suspension of the regulations, pending a full impact study. FSRH is also asking for a removal of the obligation for NHS digital to share patient data with the Home Office.
The NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Amendment Regulations introduced in 2017 placed a legal requirement for all hospital departments and all community health services to check every migrant patient’s paperwork and charge up front for healthcare, refusing non-urgent care where a patient cannot pay. The Government has now asked for evidence of the impact of these regulations.
In its response, FSRH underlines the serious impact of the regulations on vulnerable groups and on public health. We have also shed light on the requirement which sets an obligation on NHS digital to share patient data with the Home Office.
FSRH highlights in its response that:
• Up-front charging and mandatory proof of eligibility for free care place an extra burden on migrants, especially vulnerable women and girls who already find it difficult to reach out to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. This will be exacerbated by the increased patient awareness of the obligation for NHS digital to share patient data with the Home Office.
• Access to SRH services, including safe and effective contraception and abortion care, is vital for women to avoid unplanned pregnancies, curbing future costs to the NHS system. Above all, access to SRH services is integral to realising womens’ and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights.
• Confusion over who is entitled to free care will continue to deter women and girls from seeking medical advice and receiving the care they need, with clear risks to public health.
Dr Anne Connolly, GP in Bradford and FSRH Vice President, works with patients directly affected by the amendment regulations. Dr Anne explained:
"Patients are now being asked to produce 2 forms of ID when they go for their booking. This affects the most vulnerable as many of our eligible patients don’t have 2 forms of ID - the homeless, addicts, sex workers, asylum seekers - who should be eligible. Some, who are not used to UK healthcare or who would be expected to pay in the country of origin, don’t understand the instruction and are concerned that they will have to pay - and do not have the finances to do so - and will then not attend."
You can download our responses below. You can also read a letter FSRH previously submitted asking Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt to consider withdrawing the NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Amendment Regulations 2017.