Socialist Worker

Sick I.D. checks must go says GP

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2547

Jackie Applebee-Turner

Jackie Applebee-Turner (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Health workers have slammed moves to make them check foreign patients’ IDs as racist and dangerous.

NHS boss Simon Stevens revealed in the Daily Mail newspaper this week that his “NHS blueprint” will make GPs check European Union (EU) citizens’ documents.

It will also push through £1 billion of cuts.

East London GP Jackie Applebee-Turner told Socialist Worker, “It’s racist, and it will put barriers in the way of people registering with GPs.

“People who have problems with their immigration status will worry that if they come to the doctor it could get them deported.

“That could lead to people getting seriously ill. Britain has one of the worst rates for diagnosing cancer.

“This will make that worse. And public health generally will suffer.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has already announced plans to change the law to roll out everywhere the passport checks being piloted at some hospitals.


Tories and bosses claim that discriminatory ID checks are necessary to protect the NHS from “health tourism”. But Jackie explained that they only damage the NHS.

“The NHS needs migrant workers—it would fall apart without them.

“But over half of doctors from EU countries say they are thinking of leaving because of fears about their immigration status.

“This will only make them feel more insecure.

“The checks will increase bureaucracy for GPs who are so overworked that 84 percent already say they can’t provide safe care.

“NHS care has always been free at the point of delivery to everyone on this soil.

“Once the procedure is in place to make people pay, eventually it will be used on everyone.”

The government’s clampdown has provoked a backlash from furious health workers.

Many have passed motions in their union branches condemning passport checks and pledging to defend workers who refuse to implement them.

NHS workers in Bristol are holding a Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) meeting this week to organise a fightback after three health union branches in the area passed the motion.

Mental health worker and Unison union member Dave Weltman told Socialist Worker, “These proposals from Jeremy Hunt distract from the cuts the government is making.


“They undermine confidentiality and trust, and they create a culture of suspicion.

“We’ve committed to supporting any member who refuses to act as a border guard.

“That’s powerful, but so far it’s symbolic, and unions need to work out what to do practically.”

Hospital worker and Unite union member Gwyneth Powell-Davies added, “I was so angry when the proposals first came out.

“I thought, this is one thing we’ve got to do something about. When I took the motion to the union meeting everyone supported it.

“Since then I’ve had members come and ask what’s happening with it next.”

Tory prime minister Theresa May’s divided and unpopular government is using racism and nationalism to maintain its support.

At the same time the Tories are trashing the NHS.

They must be stopped.

The motion passed by Bristol Unite Health, download it and adapt it to your branch


Branch notes:

· Reports in press on 21st November 2016 that patients could be asked for their passport and one other form of ID before access to NHS treatment. This was based on statements by Department of Health senior civil servant, Chris Wormald who commended the decision of Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Trust to ask for two forms of ID from patients seeking non-emergency care. This branch believes that to institute passport checks at the door of the NHS to be opposed on following grounds.

· It is counter not only to the founding principles of the NHS of which we are proud but also to the universal principles that guide health professionals. Public health is always threatened when access to healthcare is restricted to a section of the population.

· Condemned immediately by BMA as “disproportionate”, the measure is not evidence-based. Our NHS still treats 1 million people every one and half days whereas the largest estimates for “health tourists” is 200,000 for the whole year. As apparent affirmation by the state of views promoted by racists that “migrants are to blame” the measure would be a dangerous diversion from the real attacks on the NHS

· It is a classic case of using racism to justify measures that then hit us all. It could be a back-door way of introducing identity cards without any of the civil liberties arguments being properly aired.

· At a time when the NHS is being severely run down and massively re-organised the introduction of identity checks seems in fact to be training the NHS up for the introduction of insurance based system.


We call on Unite to:

· Oppose proposals to introduce passport checks in any part of the National Health Service

· Launch a national petition to oppose such a measure

· Support health workers who refuse to implement such measures.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.