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Failed asylum seekers to get free health care

21st July 2009

A government rethink has been announced that will allow failed asylum seekers the chance to receive free health care.

Currently, an estimated 450,000 failed asylum seekers in Britain are denied free treatment on the NHS.

However, a joint review of the policy by the Department of Health and the Home Office ruled that up to 20,000 would be allowed free health care, including children and those who would "otherwise be destitute", or could not return home "through no fault of their own".

In a statement to MPs, health minister, Ann Keen said: "These changes will support a clearer and fairer system of access to free NHS services that will maintain the confidence of the public and prevent inappropriate access while maintaining our commitment to human rights. These measures strike the right balance between controlled access, the protection and promotion of wider public health, and ensuring that the health care needs of the most vulnerable groups are protected".

"We remain firmly committed to the requirement that immediately necessary, or other urgent treatment, should never be denied or delayed from those who require it."

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch said: "These proposals amount to jamming the door open for illegal immigrants to access the National Health Service". 

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said "the government should have gone further in supporting migrants".

She added: "We believe no one whose asylum claim has been refused should be turned down for care which cannot be delayed, and which clinicians determine they need. The role of clinical staff is to determine what care a patient needs, and how urgently they need it – not to assess their immigration status."

A public consultation is to be held on the changes.

 

 

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