Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has welcomed the government’s climb-down on NHS plans in the Immigration Bill. The Home Office previously planned to introduce immigration checks by GPs, and charging for access to primary care services.
The provision in the Immigration Bill on the NHS is now far weaker, JCWI said. There will be no policing of patients’ immigration status in front line NHS services. At the same time, there will be no charging for GP services. The Bill intends to charge students and other temporary migrants a levy to cover NHS costs; however any specific details will be introduced by a separate order at a future date.
According to JCWI, the current health charge will make no difference whatsoever to waiting lists or demand for healthcare. It will act as a deterrent for students wanting to study in the UK, and will provide little extra revenue for the NHS itself. Students come to the UK to study, not to use the NHS, JCWI said. This measure will have no impact whatsoever on ‘illegal’ immigration – the declared intention of this bill.
Habib Rahman, Chief Exec of JCWI said they were “delighted to see this U-Turn” and called “for further such re-thinks on other aspects of the bill.”
He added that the charge for students was “an indiscriminate levy and should also be scrapped – as they pay extremely high fees to study already.”