ourNHS

Treat, don't police

Last week's shocking treatment of migrants by employer Byron shows how government is seeking to create an army of informants - and they're trying the same tactics in our NHS.

Ruth Atkinson
5 August 2016

Our Tory government seeks to create a “hostile environment” for migrants in the UK. This means that they have devolved border control from the Home Office into every corner of our lives: employment, renting, and healthcare. They are essentially creating an army of informants to dob in the most vulnerable, those who often have no legal protection.

We have seen this happen at Byron. We are also seeing it happen in the NHS.

Under the Immigration Act, non-EEA patients are chargeable at 150% of NHS costs. Patients with outstanding bills have their details shared with the Home Office, which can lead to requests for leave to remain being denied, or even to detention. This is an increasingly popular tactic: this year, the Home Office requested three times as much data from the NHS than in 2013, as shown below.

nhs data requests by home office.png

We can’t allow this to happen! The government is creating a panopticon of border control, where we police each other. This ultimately causes fear and resentment, and fuels racist ideology. Vulnerable people are less likely to access health services if they fear charges or punishment on the grounds of immigration status. This constitutes a public health and human rights issue.

Byron colluded with the Home Office to avoid a massive fine. It seems they knew who was working for them illegally, and set them up for their own benefit. But healthcare workers, ideally, provide free access to sensitive, non-judgemental care. They cannot be asked to police instead of treat.

At DocsNotCops, we are working to repeal the Immigration Act within healthcare. The BMA stands with us, and you can too!

Find us on Facebook, Twitter or www.docsnotcops.co.uk 

How do we work after coronavirus?

The pandemic has profoundly changed our working lives. Millions have lost their jobs; others have had no choice but to continue working at great risk to their health. Many more have shouldered extra unpaid labour such as childcare.

Work has also been redefined. Some workers are defined as 'essential' – but most of them are among the lowest-paid in our societies.

Could this be an opportunity?

Amid the crisis, there has been a rise in interest in radical ideas, from four-day weeks to universal basic income.

Join us on 5pm UK time on 20 August as we discuss whether the pandemic might finally be a moment for challenging our reliance on work.

In conversation:

Sarah Jaffe, journalist and author of 'Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone', due to be published next year.

Amelia Horgan, academic and author of 'Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism', also due to be published next year.

Chair: Alice Martin, advisory board member of Autonomy, a think tank dedicated to the future of work.

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