• Saturday, June 25, 2022

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Everyone living in UK must have free healthcare access to prevent another Windrush scandal: London mayor Sadiq Khan

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks to members of the media following a photocall at Prior Weston primary school before delivering a speech on his plans to tackle climate change to environmental groups and members of the media at Barbican Centre on September 23, 2021 in London, England. The London Mayor warned that time is running out to act on the climate emergency. London has experienced soaring temperatures and unprecedented flooding this year which is only set to worsen, with six London Boroughs identified at risk of flooding and overheating in a recent report by City Hall and Bloomberg. Those being Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Islington, Brent, Tower Hamlets and Newham. Also identified as at risk from flooding in the report are a quarter of London’s rail stations, 1 in 5 schools, nearly half of London’s hospitals and 200,000 homes and workplaces. With all school children in London attending schools with toxic air, the Mayor is looking to expand his Ultra Low Emission Zone to help reduce pollution and carbon emissions. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

LONDON mayor Sadiq Khan on Wednesday (22) urged the government to provide free NHS care for everyone living in the UK to prevent another potential Windrush scandal. 

On Windrush Day (June 22), Khan called for an end to the NHS charging regulations for migrants which impacts undocumented Londoners as they struggle to prove their immigration status to get free healthcare.

This policy disproportionately affects patients from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, the mayor said in a statement.

Currently, some migrants can face being charged upfront fees for healthcare that is not deemed urgent or immediately necessary or be charged retrospectively for urgent treatment, including maternity services.

This can also affect Londoners who should be exempt but struggle to navigate the complex system to prove their eligibility for free healthcare, while the extortionate immigration health surcharge on visa applications means that many migrants effectively pay tax twice for their healthcare.

According to research, patients from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be targeted for an immigration status check than White patients due to racial profiling. Besides, immigration status is also associated with delayed access to maternity services.

“This Windrush Day, I want to pay tribute to the way that the Windrush generation has helped to make our city what it is today. Their incredible contribution to our lives must always be valued and never be forgotten, yet the disgraceful treatment they have faced from the government and the delay in delivering compensation continues to shame our nation,” said Khan.

“It is unacceptable that today undocumented Londoners can struggle to access free healthcare due to worries about proving their immigration status, and that many migrant workers are effectively required to pay a double tax through the extortionate immigration health surcharge. The government must end its hostile environment now and ensure that everyone living in the UK can access healthcare for free – before they create another Windrush scandal.”

According to Khan, an estimated 397,000 undocumented Londoners in the capital missing out on vital treatment for fear of charges or impacting their immigration status.

Scrapping the NHS charging regulations would also prevent the government from trying to use NHS staff to enforce their hostile environment immigration rules, the statement added.

To mark Windrush Day, City Hall will give £50,000 to the Windrush Justice programme led by the Action for Race Equality organisation. It follows Khan’s previous £20,000 investment in the Windrush Justice Fund coordinated by Patrick Vernon OBE and delivered by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Anna Miller, head of Policy and Advocacy, Doctors of the World, said: “Across our clinic and advice-line services we see patients in our communities avoiding the care they need, often at huge risk to their health, for fear of being faced with bills they cannot afford and subsequent reporting to the Home Office. The regulations are complex and unworkable, are often implicated in racial profiling, and are extremely challenging to navigate for both patients and NHS staff.”

Jeremy Crook, chief executive of Action for Race Equality, said that it welcomes the opportunity to support those providing vital advocacy and advice for those directly affected by the Windrush scandal.

Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO Praxis, said: “This Windrush Day, it’s hard to find much to celebrate. Despite lives being wrecked and thousands of people being driven into poverty and destitution by the government’s actions, only a tiny number of people have been able to make a claim for compensation and the fact that only a quarter of those who have managed to make a claim have actually received a payment makes a mockery of the government’s commitment to right the enormous wrong it caused to thousands.

“What’s urgently needed is a fair, accessible, independently-administered compensation scheme, and a real plan to make sure everyone who is entitled to recompense knows how to get it and has help to do so.”

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