‘Health charges are harming patients’ – Catholic Bishop warns health secretary

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The Catholic Bishop with responsibility for migration and asylum has called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to suspend the new charging regime for non-UK citizens receiving healthcare.

In a letter to the Health Secretary, Bishop Paul McAleenan said:

“It has been drawn to my attention by Catholic organisations that since the introduction of upfront charging and the requirement for healthcare providers to check patients’ immigration status, many of the vulnerable people who they work with have become increasingly reluctant to access healthcare and in a growing number of cases have been refused treatment because they could not provide the necessary paperwork or payment.”

Explaining that Catholic medical practitioners have also raised concerns about the new charging regime endangering patients and wasting staff time he went on to warn:

“These changes are already beginning to inflict unintended harm upon patients, the medical profession and our society as a whole.”

He concluded by urging the Health Secretary to suspend the charges while they are reviewed and cancel any planned extension of the charging regime to emergency or GP care.

Bishop McAleenan’s letter follows a public intervention last November when he said that:

“Our society can be measured by how we treat the most vulnerable. Deterring people from seeking healthcare or denying them treatment is undignified and unjust.

Furthermore those working on the frontline have indicated that these measures are actually likely to place greater burdens on NHS staff and increase pressure on an already struggling system.”