New up-front identity checks in the NHS that came into force on Monday are discriminatory and dangerous.
They are a vicious escalation of the Tories’ clampdown on so-called “health tourism”.
Sick people will need proof they have lived in Britain for the past six months to receive free care. If not, they have to pay up or show they have health insurance.
NHS workers are furious. Chrissie Gardner, equalities officer of the Unite union’s Bristol health branch, told Socialist Worker, “It’s ridiculous. It’s a diversion from the real NHS crisis caused by cuts and privatisation.
“We won’t be border guards. As health workers we can’t refuse treatment for anybody. It’s just racism.”
Health workers and others from the Docs Not Cops campaign protested with a mock immigration barrier in front of the Department of Health on Monday.
The new move is a burden on patients and health workers alike—and it will deter many migrants from seeking care that they need.
To divert anger over the NHS crisis the Tories are pushing the lie that “health tourism” by migrants is draining resources.
But there’s no evidence for the government’s claim that such “health tourism” costs £500 million a year. And even this is a tiny proportion of the NHS budget.
NHS understaffing will make it hard to enforce the controls consistently. And hospitals will have some leeway.
That leaves more room for racist discrimination. Someone who appears to be from an immigrant background will be more likely to face checks.
But it it also creates a space for health workers to resist the checks.
Chrissie said, “We passed a motion in our union branch and region condemning this policy—and committing us to defend any member of staff who refuses to do it.”
But, she added, “What’s happening around this in unions is coming from the bottom. We need the national unions to speak out in defence of people who need care wherever they come from.”