Charging failed asylum seekers for healthcare is having a devastating impact and the policy should be scrapped, the Refugee Council said today.
Asylum seekers whose claims have failed were stopped from receiving most forms of hospital healthcare free two years ago.
Cases highlighted by the charity include an Eritrean who tested positive for HIV and was then refused treatment and a destitute Romanian who had an operation for stomach cancer but was then billed £1,085 and denied follow up radiotherapy .
The Refugee Council’s report says asylum seekers whose claims are refused may remain in the UK for a variety of genuine reasons such as appealing against the decision but will have little or no income making it impossible for them to pay for care.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The NHS is not a free service for illegal immigrants or failed asylum seekers.
We simply do not agree that all illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers should receive free treatment without question.
“The NHS will always treat patients, irrespective of their residency status, if their condition is immediately life threatening. For instance, if an asylum seeker has already started a course of treatment for HIV or AIDS it will not be stopped, nor will charges be applied, if their application is eventually turned down.”