Extension of charging for emergency treatment

Posted on Mon 6 Feb 2017

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Reports today that the Government intend to legislate to extend health charging to all secondary care and community care is of great concern.  Reports suggest that all hospitals will be required to introduce passport checks before emergency treatment is provided.  Importantly, none of the reports identified how much will be collected or how much it will cost to collect this money.

As Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, highlighted the health care system in England does face significant financial challenges.  But as he also pointed out this was due to government cuts, “In 2018-19, real-terms NHS spending per person in England is going to go down, 10 years after Lehman Brothers [collapsed] and austerity began” he said. When questioned by MPs, he added “It is a matter of fact that, like probably every part of public services, we got less than we asked for [in the spending review], so it would be stretching it to say the NHS got more”.

The Race Equality Foundation, amongst a range of organisations, has expressed concern about bringing ‘hostile environment’ policies to the NHS. Where it has been tried we have heard stories from medical staff about people being wrongfully denied healthcare, of staff targeting people because their name sounds ‘foreign’, and of settled UK residents being caught up in the dragnet of immigration control.

We have still yet to get an answer from the Department of Health on what it is costing taxpayers to check the passport every person who walks (or is carried) into a hospital. Many of those who are most vulnerable, trafficked women, victims of modern day slavery, victims of torture, won’t have ID.

It is difficult to see how these measures will lead to in improved financial health of the NHS. However, it is easy to how it will lead to rising health inequalities, and in more tragic cases of where severe illness or death could have been avoided.