METRO's CEO Dr Greg Ussher has signed a letter to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care calling for a suspension of NHS charging regulations for migrants and refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
METRO joins organisations including Doctors of the World UK, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians in the call for the suspension due to the risk charges pose to national efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. They are also calling for immigration checks and data sharing with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes to be suspended.
The letter calls for the NHS charging regulations to be suspended because:
- It is critical that everyone currently within the UK is included in nationwide public health measures. The World Health Organization has stressed the importance of ensuring all migrants and refugees have equal access to health services.
- The charging regulations obstruct the delivery of healthcare and prevent patients coming forward to NHS services.
- The current COVID-19 charging exemption does not go far enough – patients with pre-existing conditions are still charged for the treatment and management of their pre-existing conditions whilst in hospital, or may even have treatment withheld if they cannot pay.
- The exemption fails to protect NHS staff time and resources - which must now be focused on providing patient care above all else.