This week The Guardian reported on a story of an Eritrean asylum seeker who was denied further chemotherapy treatment at a hospital in West London in line with rules which expand charging for NHS treatment.

Esayas Welday has an acute type of blood cancer that is rare for his age of 29. He was unable to the pay the £33,000 bill for his treatment and was denied further care

He was sent off with a bag of medication that he could not store as he was homeless and had no fridge,

The hostile environment rules have been implemented since October 2017 and require trusts to charge asylum seekers and refugees upfront for hospital care.

Northwick Park hospital denied that Welday was denied treatment due to the healthcare bill and claimed he had received a full treatment.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have helped Welday and also emphasised that whether his status was asylum seeker or refugee then he was still entitled to the care.

Welday became very ill again not long after being discharged and was admitted to A&E at a different hospital in London, before being transferred back to Northwick to continue his chemotherapy.

He has now completed this treatment and is awaiting a stem cell transplant which he hopes will cure his cancer, whilst the JCWI have arranged accommodation and a leave to remain for 2 and a half years by the Home Office.

Similar cases were exposed as a result of the windrush scandal.

A doctor who won award for his work on the Ebola crisis, gave the medal back because of the treatment of migrants within the NHS that he had seen. He cited the example of a pregnant woman who was deterred from attending prenatal checks and couldn’t pay £4000, only to then receive emergency care and permanent damage to her baby

“This baby girl’s life has been changed forever, and it could have been avoided. What’s more, this ended up costing the NHS far more than if basic preventive care was provided to start with.”

The government claim that these charges will reduce “health tourism” and improve NHS services. However, the Bristol Cable discovered that North Bristol Trust spent more money chasing down the charges than they recovered. This resulted in a £75,000 loss for the NHS.

According to researchers, health tourism accounts for a small 0.3% of the NHS budgets.

Preventable diseases are being spread as a result of migrants avoiding treatment due to the fear of deportation or detention as a result of inability to pay charges. The NewStatesman reported in May 2018 sustained outbreaks of tuberculosis in the UK, often concentrated in migrant communities. AIDS groups have also raised the alarm of the danger that deterring at-risk groups from accessing healthcare could have on public health.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (the chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners) stated that the hostile environment is “putting policy over common sense” and that it is “making it more difficult for the NHS to recruit GPs from overseas”.

How can you get involved in campaigning against the hostile environment?

There are a number of campaigns across the country calling for the end of the hostile environment in the NHS.

There was a victory for the Migrant Rights Network in 2018, when the Government announced that they would be scrapping the scheme that used NHS Digital to track patient information.

Following a legal campaign, NHS Digital announced in November 2018 that it would withdraw from the information sharing deal that had been made in secret in 2016.

There are now further campaigns to end charges on migrants.

The Migrant Solidarity Group have more information of their campaign and how to join in here:

Sussex Defend Our NHS also have a campaign and you can find out more information and sign their pledge here:

Docs not cops – have a website with a range of briefing and campaign material

North East London Save Our NHS:

Global Justice Now have produced an article outlining how you can fight back against the hostile environment that you can find here:

Liberty Human Rights #caredontshare campaign:

Open Democracy have written an article on 6 reasons why upfront charges harm us all, you can read it here:


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