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Racist healthcare denial in Brighton and Hove

Brighton No Borders | 21.02.2007 14:11 | Anti-racism | Health | Migration | South Coast

On Friday 16th February about 20 people gathered with banners at the Royal Sussex Hospital, at the office of Jackie Bishop, local NHS Private Patient and Oversea's Patient's Co-ordinator. They were protesting against racist healthcare denial and demanding healthcare for all. Jacki Bishop has been denying asylum seekers treatment, kicked people out of hospitals and sent huge bills to people who were entitled to free care.

At 2pm on Friday 16th February at the Royal Sussex County Hospital around 20 people gathered at the office of Jackie Bishop to protest against the unjust denial of healthcare. Like other UK residents, anyone with an outstanding application for refuge in the UK are entitled to use NHS services without charge. But asylum seekers in Brighton and Hove are being denied access to care. The campaign group Brighton No Borders called the protest to highlight raise awareness about several cases where asylum seekers have been sent bills for thousands of pounds worth of care that they were entitled to free of charge. Others have been chucked out of their hospital beds by entitlement officer, Ms Jackie Bishop.

Becky Andrews from the group said,
“One patient we know of literally had his oxygen mask removed by Ms Bishop. She assumes that anyone who has lodged a claim is a failed asylum seeker. Vulnerable people are suffering both from hardline legislation and from the ignorant and racist way that Jackie Bishop is doing her job. This law should be revoked and Jackie Bishop should be sacked. We demand free healthcare for all. ”

Many doctors and campaigners believe this law is totally unjust and irresponsible and argue that there is far too much room for individuals working in the NHS to manipulate the vague Department of Health guidelines to fit in with their money saving, racist agendas. This is not only professionally unethical but also dangerous to health. In the words of one GP, Dr Paul Williams:

‘Any link between immigration status and health care entitlement should be removed. Free primary medical care should continue to be provided until someone is removed from the UK. The consequences of denying free NHS care to a wealthy Texan are very different from denying care to an HIV positive Zimbabwean. Rather than looking for scapegoats to blame for tight funding we should be looking at ways to treat vulnerable individuals.””

This is another example of asylum seekers and migrants being scapegoated. The local health trust is famously in financial difficulties, but it is not just more humane, but also more cost-effective to provide on-going support, rather than to wait until emergency treatment is required.

Phil Clarke from the local Keep Our NHS Public group said,

“The real money wasters are the private companies such as Mercury Healthcare who have been handed lucrative contracts for operations they don't even do and dodgy IT schemes worth billions of pounds. Vital services and precious NHS resources are being handed over to the private sector, including companies run for profit for shareholders here and overseas. Now is the time to fight back to Keep Our NHS Public.”

More information/interview: No Borders protest contact: Becky Andrews 07880523231

For more information Keep Our NHS Public ring: Phil Clarke 07709696561
Further information and references

1.Medact - Refugee Network - A briefing paper (January 2005 ...There is a perceived problem of health tourists; people whose primary purpose in coming to the UK is to make free use of the NHS. Denial of care is
Judgement by unqualified staff:
Dangerous to health:
Professionally unethical:
Prevention is better than cure:
Medact - Refugee Network - A briefing paper (January 2005)
3.Individuals whose asylum claims have been rejected but remain in the UK, often without any health or social support. Following changes to the eligibility criteria for access to free NHS secondary care, it is clear that failed asylum seekers are only entitled to emergency or 'immediately necessary' care, and that this can be a source of suffering and hardship.
4.From 1st April 2004, new regulations have restricted access to non-emergency healthcare for failed asylum seekers. The law states that any course of treatment already underway at the time of claim should be free of charge.
5.The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which Britain signed in 1951, states that host countries must provide those fleeing tyranny and persecution with access to health services, housing, education and employment.
6.These cases in Brighton confirm the worst fears of the British Medical Association that those who are most vulnerable and in need of support, are being denied basic health care.
7.NHS core principles Provide universal Quality healthcare that: Meets the needs of everyone
Is free at the point of need
And is based on a patient's clinical need not their ability to pay
The NHS will help to keep people healthy and work to reduce health inequalities
The NHS will focus efforts on preventing, as well as treating ill health.
Recognising that good health also depends upon social, environmental and economic factors such as deprivation, housing, education and nutrition, the NHS will work with other public services to intervene not just after but before ill health occurs. It will work with others to reduce health inequalities. - 20k
8.The BMA would like to see a degree of humane flexibility introduced into the system to ensure that genuine health need is met. The BMA also believes that in many instances it is not just more humane, but also more cost-effective to provide on-going support, rather than to wait until emergency treatment is required. The BMA believes that it is essential that new policies take account of what has gone wrong in the past and ensure that future procedures safeguard the health of asylum seekers. It is also vital that lessons are learnt from successful projects currently taking place so that good practice can be replicated. Rather than looking for scapegoats, we should be looking at ways to treat vulnerable individuals and limit the risk of transmission of all transmitted infections. In the long term, this will save the NHS money.
9.There are at least 200,000 failed asylum seekers in Britain - nobody has an exact figure. Around 5,500 qualify for support on various grounds including the inability to leave the UK because of illness or late pregnancy. NHS turns away failed asylum seekers with cancer. Sarah Boseley, health editor Thursday June 29, 2006 The Guardian. Cancer patients and women about to give ...,,1808243,00.html
10.New Independent treatment centre, Haywards Heath, Sussex Orthopedic centre is run by Mercury Health, £18 million, to run centre, they are paid whether they make operations or not, they carry out a very small number of operations.
11.Private centre waste NHS millions, 25.9.2006, The

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poor Texans

21.02.2007 17:50

GP, Dr Paul Williams:

‘...The consequences of denying free NHS care to a wealthy Texan are very different from denying care to an HIV positive Zimbabwean.'

For the sake of argument, what about poor Texans?

On the matter of non-clinical managers interfering with kit that they don't understand, if the patient who had their O2 mask removed suffered as a result, it'd be worth trying to bring a charge, perhaps of assault.