Doctors and MPs demand evidence on migrant healthcare policies

Published 31st March 2019

This week, MPs, Royal Medical Colleges, leading academics, healthcare professionals and unions wrote to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, calling for the publication migrant healthcare policy reviews.

Signed by The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges and politicians including Lord Hunt of Kings Health, David Lammy MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Kate Green MP, the letter claimed the reviews received “evidence of deterrence and serious harm” caused by these policies “which we consider to be of the utmost seriousness”.

Over the last two years the Department of Health and Social Care has commissioned three reviews to look at the impact of controversial policies – such as sharing migrant patient’s data with immigration officials and withholding healthcare from migrants who cannot pay in advance – on vulnerable patients and public health.  None of the reviews have been made available to the public.

A patient seeing a doctor at a Doctors of The World drop in clinic in Bethnal Green, London, UK.
The volunteer doctors, nurses and support workers offer primary care and health care advice to excluded people including asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. Credits: Ben Langdon


Healthcare professionals, public health experts, charities and trade unions have long raised concerns that the NHS charging regulations[1] and the practice of sharing patient data with the Home Office for immigration enforcement have a detrimental impact on vulnerable patients, health-seeking behaviour, public health and health inequalities.[2]  As more cases of NHS migrant charging policies causing substantial harm and risks to health and wellbeing come to light,[3] royal medical colleges have recently called for the NHS charging regulations to be suspended pending a full independent review of their impact on individual and public health.[4]

Lucy Jones, Director of Programmes , Doctors of the World said:

“At our clinics we see people living in very difficult circumstances, including pregnant women and asylum seekers, who simply are not getting the healthcare they need because of these policies. Some are refused healthcare and others are just too afraid to go to NHS services.”

Yusef Azad, Director of Strategy, NAT (National AIDS Trust) said:

“The Government is always asking health professionals to provide evidence of the harm of NHS migrant charging and data-sharing practices. Yet, when we do so – and there is a lot of evidence – the findings are buried.”


We see people living in very difficult circumstances who simply are not getting the healthcare they need because of migrant charing policies policies. Credits: Ben Langdon 



[1]National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 and the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.

[2] Bowsher GM, Krishnan RA, Shanahan TA, Williams SK. ‘Immigration Act 2014 challenges health of migrants in the UK’ Lancet (London, England) 2015; 385: 852–3; British Medical Association. ‘Government’s migrant charging proposals are impractical, uneconomic and could damage the NHS, warns BMA’, 2013; Farrington, R. et al. (2016) ‘Impact of proposal to extend charging for NHS in England’, Lancet. Elsevier, 388(10043), p. 459. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31150-3.; Feldman, R. (2017) ‘The Impact on Health Inequalities of Charging Migrant Women for NHS Maternity Care: A Scoping Study’, 2018; Rafighi, E. et al. (2016) ‘National Health Service Principles as Experienced by Vulnerable London Migrants in “Austerity Britain”: A Qualitative Study of Rights, Entitlements, and Civil-Society Advocacy’, International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 5(10), pp. 589–597. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2016.50, Doctors of the World  ‘Doctors of the World briefing: Department of Health consultation on further NHS charging – “Making a fair contribution”, 2016; Department of Health ‘Sustaining services, ensuring fairness Government response to the consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to NHS provision in England’ 2013; Equality and Human Rights Commission ‘The lived experiences of access to healthcare for people seeking and

refused asylum’, 2018.Public Health England, Letter to Health Select Committee (March 2017) available in ‘Correspondence regarding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NHS Digital, the Home Office and the Department of Health on data sharing’, 2017. Health and Social Care Select Committee ‘Memorandum of understanding on data-sharing between

NHS Digital and the Home Office: Fifth Report of Session 2017–19’, 2018.

[3] Dianne Taylor ‘Anti-FGM campaigner denied NHS cancer care’ 2019; Denis Campbell ‘I thought they were killing me’: NHS trust halted asylum seeker’s cancer treatment’, 2019; Chaminda Jayanetti ‘Cancer patient died after NHS demanded £30,000 for treatment’, 2018.

[4] Royal College of Physicians ‘Royal colleges support suspension of NHS overseas visitor charges pending review’, 2019.


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