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A MEMBER of the Windrush generation has been charged thousands for cancer treatment after the Home Office lost his papers and denied him leave to remain, the High Court heard today.
The man, known only as MP, moved from St Lucia aged 14 with his family more than 40 years ago and has lived in Britain ever since.
Now nearly 60, he was diagnosed with the incurable blood cancer myeloma in 2015 and has required chemotherapy and stem cell treatment to put his cancer in remission.
But, despite living in Britain since 1974, working and paying taxes to support the NHS, MP has been charged “thousands of pounds for his treatment” because the Home Office lost records of his lawful entry to Britain.
MP applied for indefinite leave to remain back in 2005 – but, incredibly, the Home Office took until October 2015 to refuse his application, claiming there was insufficient evidence he arrived legally.
He was initially denied treatment because he could not pay in advance and has since received medical care only after “protracted pre-action correspondence.”
His appeal for leave to remain is also expected to be upheld, but no confirmed decision has yet been made.
His lawyers claim regulations introduced in 2017 – requiring NHS bodies to secure advance payment in most cases and record whether patients are overseas visitors and extending charging to private organisations providing NHS care – are unlawful because the Department of Health (DoH) failed to consult on them.
They also argue that the wider implications of the policy are serious and far-reaching: they act as a deterrent to vulnerable migrants needing medical care, which leads to diagnoses being missed, potentially contributing to the spread of HIV and TB, and placing greater strain on the NHS.
Jason Coppel QC, for MP, said the 2017 regulations are “a significant contribution by [the DoH] to the government’s wider policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants to the UK,” adding: “Hostility is part of the policy.”
He told the court the DoH had been “on notice” of the significant problems the regulations were likely to create, especially via the requirement of advance payment, except in the case of an “immediately necessary [or] urgent” service.
Mr Coppel said the DoH was told the policy would “have a deterrent effect on the access of migrants to healthcare,” and that it was “liable to lead to racial profiling.”
He added that it “ought to be obvious [that] many migrants, particularly undocumented migrants, are in no position to understand the complexities of what is necessary, what is urgent [and] when they are likely to be charged up front.”
Mr Coppel also noted that the fact that MP had “served time in prison for a number of serious offences” was repeatedly referred to by the DoH, adding that it was “somewhat ironic … that he would not have been charged at all for NHS treatment if he had required it while in prison.”
Evidence from National Aids Trust director of strategy Yusuf Azad and Dr Jess Potter, a respiratory expert and member of Docs Not Cops, was also before the court, warning of the dangers of HIV and TB going undiagnosed as a result of the policy.
Mr Azad warned that “there will be a reduction in HIV testing” as result of the policy – while testing and treatment is exempt from charging for obvious public health reasons, Mr Azad said HIV is “often detected in hospital settings” rather than in specific sexual health clinics.
Mr Coppel said the case was not just about “undocumented migrants. This is [about] what are the consequences for public health generally.”
The DoH argues that it was not under an obligation to consult before introducing the regulations, and that MP’s claim wrongly asserts the policy was “targeted” at undocumented migrants.
The hearing continues.
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