Protest outside Mile End Hospital to demand end to immigration checks
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Campaigners are to set up a mock immigration checkpoint outside the Barts Health Trust AGM at Mile End Hospital today, in protest at immigration checks and charging of overseas visitors.
A spokesman for North East London Save Our NHS said the protest is being carried out after the Trust is asking patients to fill in a pre-attendance questionnaire which asks for private, non-health-related information such as passport number and employers’ name and address.
According to the spokesman the Trust then sends, each week, up to 100 patients’ details to the Home Office.
A GP in Tower Hamlets, Dr Jackie Applebee, said: “This approach is dangerous and putting people’s lives at risk.
“It is deterring people from seeking healthcare all together, or making them delay seeking help until their health problem escalates into a full blown emergency.”
A member of Newham Save Our NHS, Rosamund Mykura, added: “The Trust have admitted that they haven’t assessed the impact this is having on equality, even though they have a legal duty to do this.
“They need to start promoting a welcoming environment, with posters reassuring patients their immigration status will not be challenged when seeking healthcare in Bart’s Trust, and that their details will not be sent to the Home Office.”
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The campaigners will be delivering a letter - signed by more than 600 local residents and organisations – to the chair of Barts Health NHS Trust, Ian Peters.
Ms Mykura said: “We are calling on the Trust to stop collaborating with the government’s hostile environment agenda.
“The Trust should suspend the practice of charging patients before treatment is given if the patient cannot prove their immigration status.
“Instead Barts Trust should conduct a proper evaluation of the impact of charging on people’s willingness to seek treatment, and on public health.”
Campaigners will be outside the main entrance to Mile End Hospital on Bancroft Road from 5.30pm to 6.00pm today.
A Barts Health spokesman said: “We take pride in providing vital care to all our patients.
“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.”