Let’s make sure everyone in Britain can access the healthcare they need

Published 7th November 2019

Doctors of the World is an independent humanitarian organisation and we will not stay quiet when it comes to protecting the right to healthcare and the health of our patients, beyond party politics and easy electoral slogans.

For the General Election 2019, we put forward our policy recommendations outlining the key changes the next government needs to make to ensure everyone living in the UK can get the healthcare they need. Our recommendations are grounded in our patients’ experience of accessing NHS services.

We include eight questions you can ask candidates to better understand their stance on access to healthcare and a brief containing more information about the status of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

Share it with your friends and family, ask questions at hustings and on social media. Help ensure everyone in Britain can access the healthcare they need, even if they cannot vote.

Let’s make sure everyone in Britain can access the healthcare they need

The UK has a proud history of accessible healthcare. The NHS is one of the most inclusive services in the world, founded in 1948 to universally provide comprehensive healthcare, free at the point of delivery. The UK committed to working towards universal health coverage in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals – meaning the system should be seeking to expand coverage to everyone in the country.

Refugees and migrants have long been excluded from healthcare by restrictive policies and laws that undermine the NHS’s founding principles and efforts to achieve universal health coverage. This includes an excessive immigration health surcharge (IHS) for migrant workers, prohibitive “pay in advance” charging in secondary care, and also assigns immigration enforcement duties to NHS healthcare staff. This puts immense pressure on clinicians, denies timely care for people in need and means that migrants and refugees, including vulnerable and destitute people, experience catastrophic health costs which they simply cannot afford.

Britain must continue the global leadership it showed when the NHS was founded, by ensuring that those who are being shut out of healthcare services are instead welcomed into a genuinely universal system.

The fundamental principle underscoring the recommendations below is that health systems ought to be designed and equipped to ensure that everyone can fulfill their right to health. We call on policy-makers to guarantee that:

Everyone living in the UK gets timely access to affordable healthcare
  • Withdraw all charging, so that services are always given on need rather than ability to pay.
  • Allow everyone who has lived in the UK for 3 months or longer to receive free NHS care.
  • Guarantee that EU nationals will be exempt from health charges, including the IHS, after Brexit.
  • For those who are charged for NHS care, set healthcare bills at the NHS tariff (rather than 150%) and allow patients on lower incomes to pay NHS bills in installments.
There is a clear separation between the NHS and immigration enforcement
  • End all policies obliging NHS services to check patients’ immigration status.
  • Prohibit documentation of immigration status on patients’ NHS records.
  • Implement an information firewall between the NHS and the Home Office.
  • Remove all Home Office staff from NHS services.

You can find out more about access to healthcare for EU nationals living in England here.


With your support, Doctors of the World will make sure nobody suffers or dies due to lack of access to healthcare.