Doctors and community nurses should not act as the government’s ‘health police’ when deciding if asylum seekers and political refugees should receive medical treatment.
There are fears that proposals to stamp out ‘health tourism’ could result in discrimination, be a threat to public health if people don’t receive medical attention and be very costly to administer.
The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), and the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) – both sections of the Amicus trade union – outlined their concerns to the Department of Health’s consultation document, Proposals to Exclude Overseas Visitors from Eligibility to Free NHS Primary Medical Services.
The CPHVA said: ‘We would not support refusal of treatment, if no proof of eligibility or inability to pay were demonstrated to health care staff.’
‘We are concerned that changes will lead to more instances where staff will focus on people’s appearances and accents as to who can register and get treatment.’
The CPHVA believes that ‘health tourists’ and asylum seekers should be separated when it comes to eligibility for treatment, as there were different issues involved i.e. the ability to pay for treatment.
The MPU said: ‘Clinicians and their staff should not be involved in deciding eligibility for care or enforcing potentially inflammatory rules. No government should ask professional workers to compromise their ethics in such a way.’