Protest against immigration checks on patients takes place outside Mile End Hospital

Camoaigners demanded an end to immigration checks that are preventing people from seeking care. Pict

Camoaigners demanded an end to immigration checks that are preventing people from seeking care. Picture Basit Mahmood - Credit: Basit Mahmood

Campaigners set up a mock immigration checkpoint outside the Barts Health Trust AGM at Mile End Hospital yesterday and demanded an end to immigration checks for patients.

The protest began at 5.30pm outside the main entrance to Mile End Hospital on Bancroft Road after which protestors moved into the building itself to attend the AGM of Barts Health Trust.

According to a spokesman for North East London Save Our NHS, the protest was carried out after the trust asked patients to fill in a pre-attendance questionnaire that asks for private, non-health-related information such as passport number and employers’ name and address.

It was also claimed that the trust sends up to 100 patients’ details to the Home Office each week.

A campaigner from North East London Save Our NHS, Terry Day, 62, said: “The hospital keeps saying that no one is refused treatment, but the point is its not free treatment, they are whacked with a massive bill at the end”

Ms Day highlighted how people were scared of being stopped at the hospital and so were reluctant to seek treatment for even serious illnesses.

She added: “There is a risk that people who are entitled to treatment are turned away.

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“These policies are about instilling fear into people.”

An activist from Docs not Cops, Evan Lukes, said that the policies of checking the immigration status of patients was forcing people not to seek care our of fear.

He said: “I know of people who have had to take suboptimal treatment because they could not afford care.

“Some people have broken down in tears after being told they have to pay.”

A spokesman for Barts Health said: “Like all NHS trusts we have a responsibility to recover costs from those not eligible for free NHS care.

“Last year we were asked to take part in a national pilot in two departments to test if we could more easily assess eligibility and be able to explain the payment process to non-eligible patients earlier on in their care.

“We did not turn any patients away, and no patient visiting our hospitals had care delayed.

“These pilots have ended and we are now taking a range of steps, including designing new training for our staff, to make our practice consistent, clear and equitable across our hospitals.”