Refugees and people seeking asylum often have multiple and complex health needs as a result of experiences in their country of origin, the perilous journey to safety and their experiences in the asylum system itself. They face multiple barriers to accessing the healthcare they need in the UK.
We are particularly concerned about the impact on refugees and people seeking asylum of charging for NHS care, which has placed many services out of reach of some of the most vulnerable patients, including refused asylum seekers – who often have no ability to pay. Confusion around entitlements and an inability to provide identity documents, coupled with a lack of confidence in navigating the NHS can also lead to patients who are entitled to free care, such as asylum seekers and refugees, being wrongly turned away.
This situation was exacerbated by a data-sharing agreement between the Home Office and NHS Digital which meant some patients were too scared to register with a GP because they feared their information would be shared with enforcement officers. This data-sharing agreement was suspended in May 2018 but many vulnerable patients remain concerned their data may not be safe.
Asylum Matters is documenting the impact of the charging regime on access to healthcare for people seeking asylum. We welcome contact from those with evidence to share or who are interested in joining our campaigning efforts.