Appeal court ruling removes free care from failed asylum seekers

The Court of Appeal has overturned a decision to allow access to free hospital treatment for failed asylum seekers who have been in the UK for a long time.

The Department of Health won the appeal today against a High Court ruling last April on the case of a refused asylum seeker with chronic liver disease. The Palestinian, known only as A for legal reasons, argued that West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust should treat his condition.

The Court of Appeal overturned the ruling on the case, causing concern among campaigners.

DH guidance ‘unlawful’

But refugee charities welcomed the court’s finding that Department of Health guidance in relation to access to healthcare was unlawful and needed revision.

Sandy Buchan, chief executive of Refugee Action, said he was “extremely disappointed” with the result, which he claimed would leave some refused asylum seekers without medical care.

“Most become destitute and desperate – leading to mental and physical conditions, yet they cannot afford medical treatment. If they are not seen at an early stage then treatable illnesses may become life-threatening,” he warned.


Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said refusing treatment to people who could not pay was “appalling and inhumane”.

She urged the government to reconsider its healthcare charging regime for asylum seekers, currently under review, to allow people free treatment “at least until they are able to go home”.

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