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Migrants 'afraid to get health aid'

Published 18/05/2015

A report found that pregnant migrant women living in Britain are regularly denied access to healthcare
A report found that pregnant migrant women living in Britain are regularly denied access to healthcare

Migrants who have permission to be in the UK are avoiding seeking vital medical treatment for fear of being arrested, a charity has warned.

Doctors of the World, which runs a clinic in Bethnal Green, east London, said most (83%) of the patients it spoke to for its annual survey had no access to the NHS.

Although more than half (57.5%) of the people attending the centre were foreign nationals who did not have permission to reside in the UK, the charity said on average, patients had already been living in the country for six-and-a-half years, illustrating that they are not so-called health tourists travelling to the UK for the purpose of free medical treatment.

Along with fear of being arrested, administrative and legal barriers, lack of knowledge or understanding of the healthcare system and their rights, along with language barriers were cited as reasons for not pursuing conventional healthcare routes.

A report by the charity in March found pregnant migrant women living in Britain are regularly denied access to healthcare they are entitled to and those that do are often sent huge bills, even when they lose their babies.

The international charity's annual survey of access to healthcare in Europe is based on the experiences of more than 22,000 individuals, 1,400 of them in London.

Of those seen in the capital, 15% were asylum seekers, while 12% had a visa, the highest proportion observed in the European countries of the survey.

The charity said across the 10 countries, less than half of the children seen in its consultations were properly immunised against tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella and more than half pregnant women had not had access to antenatal care until they were well into their second trimester.

Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World UK, said: "The failure to ensure equitable access to healthcare across Europe is this century's hidden public health time bomb.

"Austerity, poverty and exclusion risk robbing an entire generation of healthy, productive lives across a continent that undervalues the benefits of universal healthcare.

"European states must recognise and address this looming public health crisis without delay not least because it makes sound economic, as well as health sense."

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