I read in The Guardian yesterday that the government is to abolish her plans to tighten regulations that allow asylum seekers to seek free primary care.
To be honest, I was horrified when I heard it had been proposed at all. What kind of society are we to become when we deny very basic health care to those who are extremely likely to be unable to pay for it?
I am constantly reminded of a woman I was asked to assess a couple of years ago who was admittedly was in a slightly different situation of being a failed asylum seeker who had run out of appeals. She walked a good five miles to the nearest GP who would treat her – and back again of course – on a weekly basis. She was physically unwell. It certainly concentrated the mind on the importance in general, regarding public health, especially in a crowded city, of treating people who are sick – firstly on a level of humanity and second, just because the spread of infection or someone who is avoiding treatment in primary care will lead to longer and perhaps more widespread difficulties over a longer period.
People, on whatever level they enter the country and whatever the grounds are that decide whether they can or cannot stay, are still people and are still subject, at the very least, to human rights legislation which explicitly ordains a right to life.
The Guardian quotes a spokesman for the BMA (British Medical Association) as saying
‘Our view was always that there had to be more flexibility for GPs. If you are talking about people who can pay, that is one thing, but asylum seekers are unlikely to have the money.’ She said denying primary care could lead to failed asylum seekers later coming to the NHS with ‘more life-threatening and more expensive’ needs: ‘Diabetes may not be an emergency, but if you don’t get any insulin you will end up in a coma and coming to A&E.’
The article goes on to say
Official guidelines state that GPs should not register failed asylum seekers, but they have the discretion to accept them if they wish. Many doctors argue that excluding such people would mean that they were failing in their duty to put patient welfare first.
Good for the doctors who are put into an exceptionally difficult situation by a government that passes out policy documents seemingly on the basis of populist headlines in the ‘Daily Mail‘.
It’s all very well to sit in your comfortable suburban home and grumble about your tax money going to pay the expenses of people who are seeking refuge in this country – but actually thinking of asylum seekers as human beings worthy of dignity and respect rather than numbers and ‘a problem’ might actually make the society that we live in a better and more wholesome place to live in.