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Free NHS care offered to failed asylum seekers

22 July 2009

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NHS treatment will be provided for free to thousands of failed asylum seekers, it has been revealed.

Free care is not currently available to immigrants whose claim for asylum has been turned down. However, taxpayer-funded care is to be extended to those who cannot leave the country “through no fault of their own”.

Following a review by ministers, destitute asylum seekers and those who have children will benefit from free support, with help also available for those on government support.

Also under consideration is a change to immigration rules, aimed at stopping people with “significant” NHS debts coming into the UK.

Health Minister Ann Keen said the government is also considering setting heath insurance requirements for foreign visitors.

A consultation document will publish the changes later this year, she said.

“These changes will support a clearer and fairer system of access to free NHS services that will maintain the confidence of the public and prevent inappropriate access while maintaining our commitment to human rights.

“We remain firmly committed to the requirement that immediately necessary or other urgent treatment should never be denied or delayed from those that require it.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“It’s about time there was some clarity on treatment for overseas visitors. We have a very generous and rightly humane view of treating patients who are in urgent need of care and I wouldn’t expect anyone in such circumstances to be turned away. However, I would not dream of travelling abroad without proper medical insurance cover and  see no reason why that should not be a condition of entry for those from countries with which we have no reciprocal healthcare arrangements. UK citizens inviting friends or relatives to stay with them should be advised that they may become responsible as a sponsor for the debts incurred by uninsured overseas visitors using NHS services” – Name and address withheld