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Mayor calls for free NHS care for everyone living in the UK to help prevent another Windrush scandal

Mayor calls for free NHS care for everyone living in the UK to help prevent another Windrush scandal

  • Sadiq calls for the Government to exempt anyone living in the UK from having to pay separately for the NHS, irrespective of their immigration status
  • On Windrush Day, Mayor warns that the current charges discriminate against Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Londoners who are more likely to be targeted for an immigration status check and threatens another Windrush scandal
  • Mayor also announces £50,000 contribution to The Windrush Justice programme which is helping organisations support the Windrush Generation

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today called for the Government to end its hostile environment and prevent another potential Windrush scandal by ensuring that everyone living in the UK can access the NHS for free.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This Windrush Day, I want to pay tribute to the way that the Windrush Generation has helped to make our city what it is today. Their incredible contribution to our lives must always be valued and never be forgotten, yet the disgraceful treatment they have faced from the Government and the delay in delivering compensation continues to shame our nation.

“It is unacceptable that today undocumented Londoners can struggle to access free healthcare due to worries about proving their immigration status, and that many migrant workers are effectively required to pay a double tax through the extortionate immigration health surcharge. The Government must end its hostile environment now and ensure that everyone living in the UK can access healthcare for free – before they create another Windrush scandal.”

On Windrush Day, the Mayor is calling for an end to the NHS charging regulations for migrants which impacts undocumented Londoners as they struggle to prove their immigration status to get free healthcare. This policy disproportionately affects patients from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds and ending it would prevent a repeat of the situation that saw members of the Windrush Generation being charged for treatment.

Currently some migrants can face being charged upfront fees for healthcare that is not deemed urgent or immediately necessary, or be charged retrospectively for urgent treatment, including maternity services. This can also affect Londoners who should be exempt but struggle to navigate the complex system to prove their eligibility for free healthcare, while the extortionate immigration health surcharge on visa applications means that many migrants effectively pay tax twice for their healthcare.

Research has shown that patients from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority backgrounds are more likely to be targeted for an immigration status check than White patients due to racial profiling, while immigration status is also associated with delayed access to maternity services.

By ensuring that anyone who lives in the UK is able to access healthcare for free, it would ensure that all Londoners come forward for treatment and vaccinations without fear. This would prevent the estimated 397,000 undocumented Londoners in the capital missing out on vital treatment for fear of charges or impacting their immigration status.

Scrapping the NHS charging regulations would also prevent the Government from trying to use NHS staff to enforce their hostile environment immigration rules – a policy that the Mayor committed to stand against in his manifesto.

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To mark Windrush Day, the Mayor is also announcing further support to the Windrush Justice programme. Shockingly, just five per cent of Windrush victims have received compensation after four years since the launch of the Windrush Compensation Scheme by Government. City Hall is providing £50,000 to the Windrush Justice programme led by the Action for Race Equality organisation, which is seeking to address the chronic lack of funding available for Black-led grassroots organisation supporting the Windrush Generation. This investment follows the Mayor’s previous £20,000 investment in the Windrush Justice Fund coordinated by Patrick Vernon OBE and delivered by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Anna Miller, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Doctors of the World, said: “Across our clinic and advice-line services we see patients in our communities avoiding the care they need, often at huge risk to their health, for fear of being faced with bills they cannot afford and subsequent reporting to the Home Office. The regulations are complex and unworkable, are often implicated in racial profiling, and are extremely challenging to navigate for both patients and NHS staff. On Windrush day, it is time Government considered the role of the NHS charging regulations as a perpetuating driver of health inequality and structural racism within the health service and withdraw them immediately. Nobody should be denied the treatment they need, or fear the NHS.”

Jeremy Crook, Chief Executive of Action for Race Equality (ARE) said: “ARE is delighted this group of funders have selected us to manage this important and much need grant programme. We look forward to supporting the Windrush organisations. ARE welcomes the opportunity to support those providing vital advocacy and advice for those directly affected by the Windrush scandal. We will be working directly with grassroots organisations – unfunded and funded – to identify where support will have the most impact on individuals, helping them to successfully navigate complicated procedures to secure their rights.”

Sally Daghlian OBE, CEO Praxis, said: “This Windrush Day, it’s hard to find much to celebrate. Despite lives being wrecked and thousands of people being driven into poverty and destitution by the Government’s actions, only a tiny number of people have been able to make a claim for compensation and the fact that only a quarter of those who have managed to make a claim have actually received a payment makes a mockery of the Government’s commitment to right the enormous wrong it caused to thousands. What’s urgently needed is a fair, accessible, independently-administered compensation scheme, and a real plan to make sure everyone who is entitled to recompense knows how to get it and has help to do so. But rather than learning the lessons of the Windrush scandal, the Government is doubling down on its Hostile Environment policies, that continue to deny some groups access to essential services. The pandemic reminded us that free healthcare for all is essential for the common good. No-one should be denied access to healthcare because of their immigration status.”

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