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NHS trusts' confusion over asylum care

1st August 2008

A report has brought attention to the "appalling decisions" made by NHS trusts in deciding the treatment options for failed asylum care.

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An article in the British Medical Journal has highlighted the "confusion over the rules" which has seen patients denied treatment by doctors and hospitals.

Current legislation allows those seeking asylum to have free treatment, but if they are denied asylum then trusts have to make a decision about their treatment on "a case by case basis".

The case of a Palestinian patient who was denied treatment for chronic liver disease caused a High Court judge to rule in his favour in April, "saying banning failed asylum seekers from receiving free NHS treatment was unlawful".

The Department of Health has appealed against the decision and their case will go ahead in November.

Adam Hundt, the Palestinian man's lawyer, said doctors had communicated to him that they felt their hands were tied.

He told the BMJ: "They are telling me they'd been led to believe they didn't have any choice about who they can treat."

Medsin, a student health group, put the Freedom of Information Act into effect in order to speak to people who contributed to a government consultation on the issue of free health care for failed asylum seekers in 2004.

It spoke to 50% of those who contributed and discovered that 75% of healthcare providers were worried that not allowing treatment would "put them in breach of their professional responsibilities".

Around 25% of contributors said that not treating patients who needed treatment was a violation of their "human rights".

Medsin wants the government to make all the contributions it collected public.

 

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