Around 800 asylum seekers have stopped receiving treatment in Sheffield because they cannot afford to pay bills and worry the NHS will report them to the Home Office for outstanding payments.
Sarah Eldridge of City of Sanctuary Sheffield organised a panel discussion last night: “NHS Is Free For All, Unless You’re A (Certain Category of) Migrant”, where she invited GP’s from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to discuss the hostile environments asylum seekers are subject to in Sheffield, and raise awareness about the new charging regulations.
“City of Sanctuary is a movement that started twelve years ago in Sheffield and our mission is to work against the harsh environment that the government is trying to promote on refugees and asylum seekers.”, Mrs Eldridge said.
Asylum seekers who have been denied refuge in the UK and are liable for NHS healthcare charges are not allowed to work and are entirely dependent on charity.
Asylum seekers who are now deemed “chargeable” in the NHS fall under three categories: “urgent or necessary care”, “urgent care”, or “elective care”.
The former two mean that the patients will receive immediate treatment with no prior managerial sign off, but a payment plan will be discussed after recovery.
However, they need to pay in advance for elective care and will be denied if they do not have the money.
Kristen Major, Deputy Chief Executive of the Sheffield Teaching Hospital, said: “Applying charges is a statutory regulation and we have to comply.”
“In terms of our overall approach, we have adopted one which seeks to be absolutely patient-centered and compassionate but one which we make sure that patients are fully informed.”
“We have a legal obligation to tell the people what their status is before they consume healthcare where safe and possible to do so.”
Dr Jeremy White, former Director of Public Heath Sheffield said the new policy is outrageous.
“Untreated conditions may deteriorate the patient’s health and cost the them more ill health and ultimately cost the NHS more.”
“There are some people that don’t contribute to society but we will never deny them treatment.”
Mrs Eldridge has suggested ways in which individuals can come forward in society to help asylum seekers.