First Do No Harm: Denying healthcare to people whose asylum claims have failed

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Over the last two years, since the Government introduced restrictions on free healthcare for asylum seekers whose claims are unsuccessful, we have become increasingly concerned at the devastating impact this denial of healthcare is having on individuals and families. This report is based on our experience of working with refused asylum seekers denied access to secondary healthcare since the introduction of tighter charging regulations in April 2004.
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  Refugee Council First do no harm: denying healthcare to people whose asylum claims have failed Nancy Kelley and Juliette StevensonJune 2006    This report was produced with the support of Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme, and Pierce Glynn Solicitors. The authors would also like to thank the Refugee Council’s Specialist Team and health policy adviser for their work and commitment.“Not even the apparently enlightened principle of the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ can excuse indiffer-ence to individual suffering.“  Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS, In Place of Fear,  1952 “There will always be, as there has been in the past, a proportion of overseas visitors who are … taken ill while they are here and receive healthcare to meet their needs and our international obligations. These people are visitors in need, not health tourists.” Lord Warner, Parliamentary Under Sec- retary of State, Department of Health, Hansard, 05 March 2004, col. 967  Throughout this report the term ‘refused’ has been used to refer to asylum seekers whose asylum applications and any sub-sequent appeals have been finally rejected.  AcknowledgementsNote on terminology   Contents Introduction 4 NHS charging and “health tourism” 5 The regulations 7 The health needs of asylum seekers and refugees 9 The impact of regulations 11 Implementing the regulations 15  Access to primary care 17 Conclusions and recommendations 18 Bibliography 19  4 Refugee Council  health access report Introduction The Refugee Council is the largest refugee-supporting agency in the UK. In 2005, we worked directly with more than 60,000 asylum seekers, refugees and unsuccessful asylum applicants. We not only give help and support to asylum seekers and refugees, but also work with them to ensure that their needs and concerns are addressed by decision-makers. We are a membership organisation, and our members range from small refugee led community organisations to international NGOs such as Christian  Aid, Save the Children and Oxfam. At our London office we have a Specialist Team, established to help meet the health and mental health needs of vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. The Specialist Team is made up of a health access worker, whose role is to enable clients to access care, bi-lingual support workers, who provide counselling and advocacy for refugees and asylum seekers with mental health support needs, and a women’s worker, whose role is to provide gender sentisitive support to vulnerable women. The Specialist Team works closely with our health policy adviser, who provides advice to health practitioners from the voluntary and statutory sector who are working with refugees and asylum seekers.Over the last two years, since the Government introduced restrictions on free healthcare for asylum seekers whose claims are unsuccessful, we have become increasingly concerned at the devastating impact this denial of healthcare is having on individuals and families. This report is based on our experience of working with refused asylum seekers denied access to secondary healthcare since the introduction of tighter charging regulations in April 2004.
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