Primary health care charges to apply if asylum claim fails

The government looks set to press ahead with proposals to charge failed asylum seekers for primary healthcare despite widespread opposition, campaigners have said.

The proposals, which are being considered in a review as part of a Home Office strategy to enforce compliance with immigration laws, were first mooted in a Department of Health consultation 2004. They are designed to tackle so-called health tourism, where people come to the UK and present false asylum claims to receive free NHS care.

GP practices have the discretion to accept failed asylum seekers as registered NHS patients, but the group are not generally eligible for free secondary care including hospital treatment.

The proposals under consideration would extend charging to primary healthcare, putting failed asylum seekers at risk, campaigners have warned.

Health professionals’ charity Medact said the government had consistently failed to provide substantial evidence of the impact of health tourism on the NHS to justify charging.

Moyra Rushby, co-ordinator of the charity’s refugee health network, argued that the cost of implementing the policy would outweigh any existing costs to the system incurred by treating migrants.

A Department of Health spokesperson said its review of access rules to the NHS for foreign nationals would be completed by the end of December and further consultation would follow.


Guidance says failed asylum seekers should not be registered with GPs, but they have the discretion to accept them. Failed asylum seekers are charged for hospital treatment except for accident and emergency, treatment for tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections and compulsory mental health treatment. HIV testing and counselling is free but not
treatment for HIV.

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Maria Ahmed


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