I’m an illegal. What are my rights to public healthcare?

Please let me know what rights I have as a illegal to public healthcare. I’ve looked through the internet and found something on refugees, but what about me? I’ve been working in London for over 2 years. Yes, illegally. If I go to a hospital, will I be sent away?

You can receive healthcare from the National Health Service (NHS) free of charge, depending on your residency status.

If you are a visitor to the United Kingdom or have temporary permission to live here (this is called limited leave to remain), you may be able to register with a GP in your area and receive free treatment. The GP can decide whether or not to register you. You may not be able to receive the full range of hospital treatment, because certain residence requirements must be met in order to qualify for this. This applies even if you are a British citizen or have lived or worked here in the past.

Some health services are free of charge to everyone. These are:

-treatment given in an accident and emergency (A&E) department or in an NHS walk-in centre that provides services similar to those of an A&E department;
-treatment for certain infectious diseases (but for HIV/AIDS only the first diagnosis and counseling that follows it are free);
-compulsory psychiatric treatment; and
-family planning services.

Certain categories of people are able to receive the full range of hospital treatment, including asylum applicants whose application is still being considered, anyone who has lived here legally for the previous 12 months, and diplomatic staff.

A few categories of visitors are able to receive treatment for conditions that occurred after their arrival in the United Kingdom. This includes residents of the European Economic Area, or a country with which the United Kingdom has a bilateral healthcare agreement. The Department of Health leaflet gives more details.

If you are not in one of the categories that are able to receive free treatment, you may be asked to pay for any hospital treatment you receive. You may therefore wish to ensure you have health insurance to cover your stay in the United Kingdom.

In an emergency, you should go to the nearest hospital with an accident and emergency department. If you cannot get there yourself, phone 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance. These calls are free from any phone, including mobile phones, but must only be used in an emergency.

Answered by:

Raheela Hussain-Solicitor
Greenfields Solicitors
6 Market Parade
Winchester Road
London N9 9HF
Tel: 020 8884 1166
Fax: 020 8884 1144

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