In the Queen’s speech, the Government announced that it would introduce the NHS (Overseas Visitors Charging) Bill.

This Bill will include measures to; extend the number of services for which the NHS can charge overseas visitors and migrants; reduce the number of EEA visitors who are eligible for free NHS healthcare; and ensure cost recovery is effective and efficient.

The Government has consulted on a range of proposals, including to introduce charges for primary, A&E and ambulance services. We are likely to find out the details of what will be in the Bill when the Government publishes its response to the consultation, along with the impact assessment (probably in June/July). Changes to the existing system will be brought in through both primary (the Bill) and secondary legislation (Regulations).

Raising awareness about what is proposed and its likely impact is extremely important. Regional Asylum Activism (RAA) have sought to do this by focussing on local Council’s Health and Wellbeing Boards. In April 2016, RAA provided briefings (please see: Briefing on Health Issues Affecting Refugees and People Seeking Asylum) and gave a presentation to Bury Health and Wellbeing Board which outlined concerns around the impact extending charging to primary and A&E would have on the care of asylum seekers and refugees.

As a result the Board adopted all of the recommendations in the briefing paper, including that it would: write to the Department of Health, urging them not to implement proposed charging regime; raise the issue with local MPs; explore the potential impact of these proposals on health services in Bury, and the associated individual and public health risks; and include measures to improve healthcare for asylum seekers and refugees in the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy and Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

Still Human members and City of Sanctuary supporters are encouraged to undertake similar awareness raising initiatives! Mike Kaye will provide further details of the Bill and the Government’s response to the consultation when it is available.

With thanks to Mike Kaye of Still Human Still Here and Regional Asylum Activism

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