Our vision is a world where barriers to healthcare have been overcome, where healthcare is acknowledged as a fundamental right.
Doctors of the World exists to protect the right to healthcare and to empower excluded people to claim this right. Documenting unmet healthcare needs, violence and injustice in the UK, we strive for change in communities and across society.
We empower NHS staff to provide healthcare for everyone in their community. Our resources and training support doctors, nurses and administrative staff to better understand the barriers that prevent people from accessing healthcare, empowering them to advocate on behalf of excluded patients.
We work with local healthcare commissioners and providers to build healthcare services are safe and welcoming for everyone and to steps to tackle barriers to healthcare.
Drawing on our ground-breaking research and our patient’s experiences, we work to influence national policies to ensure that everyone can access their right to healthcare without experiencing financial hardship , providing evidence of unmet healthcare needs, violence and injustice, and presenting practical solutions and policy recommendations.
We do this by responding to consultations, submitting evidence to inquiries, attending meetings with ministers, and giving evidence to select committees.
With our patients, volunteer doctors and nurses, and supporters, we call on the governments and public bodies to protect and promote the right to healthcare and campaign for the changes needed to ensure everyone living in the UK can access the healthcare they need.
 UHC is firmly based on the WHO constitution of 1948 declaring health a fundamental human right and on the Health for All agenda set by the Alma Ata declaration in 1978. UHC cuts across all of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) most notably SDG 3.
Access to Primary Care
Everyone is entitled to register and consult with a General Practitioner (GP), free of charge.
However, our patients are often asked to produce ID or proof of address at GP registration and are turned away when are unable to. This practice conflicts with NHS England guidance which states that an inability to produce paperwork is not grounds to refuse patient registration.
In 2017, the Government adapted the GP registration form to include new questions about patient immigration status, even though this information isn’t required to register with a GP. They also made clear their intention to extend healthcare charging into primary care.
We oppose any plans to charge people to access primary care, and will continue to engage with policymakers to ensure that nobody in England is prevented from seeing a GP.
Entitlement to Secondary care services
UK law restrict people who have been refused asylum and undocumented migrants in England from accessing most NHS secondary care (hospital and community) services. These people have to pay large fees to receive treatment which most cannot afford as they are not allowed to work or access to welfare support. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland people who have been refused asylum can access all NHS services free of charge.
In 2017, new rules require NHS Trusts in England to charge up-front for secondary care, meaning those who cannot pay have non-urgent treatment withheld.
At our clinic, we see patients in desperate need of medical attention but who are too scared of running up huge debts to see a doctor. Debts to the NHS are reported to the Home Office and used against people in immigration applications.
Since the NHS charging regime was introduced, we have engaged with the Department of Health & Social Care to ensure everyone living in the UK is able to access the healthcare they need. Drawn from our ground breaking research, and data and patient testimony collected in our clinic, we present the UK government with evidence of the harm caused when people are excluded from healthcare.
To ensure that NHS charges do not prevent people in living the from accessing the healthcare they need, we call on the governments of the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to:
- Reform healthcare charges to make them affordable for all, including an exemption for people living in destitution or on a low income, and refused asylum seekers.
- Exempt children and pregnant women form all charges.
- Remove the obligation on NHS Trust to charge patients upfront.
- Implement a full-scale, independent review of all NHS Charging Regulations which includes the equality impact on all migrant groups and British citizens, patient outcomes, and public health implications.
Immigration enforcement in the NHS
In 2017 the UK Government made a formal agreement to use NHS records to track down people whose asylum applications have been refused and undocumented migrants. NHS Digital, the body that holds medical records in England, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Home Office allowing immigration officials to request patients’ non-clinical information (including home address).
Unpaid hospital bills and patient information (including home address) are report to the Home Office as part of the NHS charging regime, which can result in immigration applications being refused.
Many of our patients are too afraid to share their personal information with the NHS and some avoid seeing a doctor altogether. This includes pregnant women and people with serious illnesses. They fear it will lead to immigration raids at their home, with a risk of being put into detention, separated from family and loved ones, and maybe even returned to an unsafe country.
We have been campaigning to end the sharing of patient information between the NHS and the Home Office since it first came to light in 2014. Our #StopSharing campaign mobilised over 70,000 people and saw doctors, nurses and midwives protesting outside the Home Office.
We have worked with medical bodies, regulators and other charities to demand that data-sharing deal was made public and properly debated. A House of Commons Health & Social Care Select Committee inquiry, which heard evidence from our doctors, called for the data-sharing agreement to be suspended.
In May 2018 the Government announced the agreement would be suspended pending revision. While this U-turn represents a major victory for public health, medical ethics and patient safety, patient’s fear and mistrust remain. And a number of harmful data sharing practices continue.
We will continue to campaign against the use of NHS records, staff and services in immigration enforcement, and to ensure any new data-sharing agreements meets the medical ethics standards set out by the General Medical Council.