All women, whoever they are, wherever they come from, have the right to safe, respectful and dignified care in pregnancy and birth. Our government has promised this on the world stage.

Yet in England, Home Office policies and NHS regulations mean that women’s rights are being systematically violated, putting refugee and migrant mothers and their newborns at risk.

 

UPDATE

Dear All,

Lord Hunt has tabled a regret motion on the amended NHS overseas visitors charging regulations which will be debated on Thursday 16 November in the main chamber in the House of Lords. 

While the amendment regulations have already become law, it is vital these fundamental changes to the operation of health services in England receive Parliamentary scrutiny and that plans for assessing their impact are carefully examined. Moreover, in light of the Government confirming its intention to consider extending charging into other health services in the future (A&E and GP services), it is crucial as many Peers as possible join this important debate.

Please help make the most of this opportunity by joining us in lobbying Peers to attend. Below if helpful is a model email, plus an updated briefing to Peers. 

With thanks as ever for your support,

Brigid McConville, WRA UK

Sample Letter

Subject: Please attend Thur 16 Nov Debate of Lord Hunt’s Motion on Overseas Visitors Healthcare Charging

Dear [XX Peer]

I am writing to urge you to attend an important debate on Thur 16 Nov 2017 of Lord Hunt’s Motion on Overseas Visitors Healthcare Charging.

[Introduce yourself/ your organisation and explain why this issue matters to you]

On 19 July, the Government laid new regulations[i] extending NHS charges to community healthcare services in England, and placing a legal requirement for all hospital departments and all community health services to check every patient’s eligibility for free care, and charge up-front for healthcare, refusing non-urgent care where a patient cannot pay. The regulations came fully into force on 23 October 2017.

While we recognise the need to safeguard precious NHS resources, this is not the way to go about it. Far from saving the NHS money, these measures will be administratively burdensome, will increase the workload of already over-stretched clinicians and will introduce a host of long-term costs to the NHS. They also carry the risk that health inequalities will increase, lifesaving care will be withheld from vulnerable patients, and that equality duties will be breached through a reliance on racial profiling as a means of identifying chargeable patients. These changes are also likely to undermine public health.

While the amendment regulations have already become law, it is vital these fundamental changes to the operation of health services in England receive Parliamentary scrutiny and that plans for assessing their impact are carefully examined. Moreover, in light of the Government confirming its intention to consider extending charging into other health services in the future (A&E and GP services), it is crucial as many Peers as possible join this important debate.

There is growing concern within the medical community about the implementation of these changes. 193 organisations and more than 880 individuals - of whom over 300 are doctors and 50 are nurses - signed an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health warning that "by denying healthcare to the most vulnerable in our society, these regulations will have negative consequences for us all." 

The letter has the backing of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Faculty of Homeless and Inclusion Health, the Faculty of Public Health and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Sir David Nicholson, former CEO of NHS England. The Trade Union Congress, Unite the Union and UNISON are signatories, along with a broad coalition of charities including Amnesty International UK and the Children's Society.  

GP services are excluded from the charges. However, the chairman of the Royal College of GPs has raised fears that practices could end up overloaded by patients because of this.

I urge you to join and speak in the debate on this Motion, raising the points covered in the attached briefing. The debate is timetabled to take place on Thursday 16 November 2017 in the main chamber (currently listed as the last item of business).

Thank you for your support.

Yours Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Add your voice to the campaign to demand the government drop new rules which impose identification checks and upfront charges for NHS care.

Health care professionals are saying that (amongst other vulnerable people) pregnant women and new mothers who have come to England as refugees and who don’t yet have the right documents will be scared away from seeking maternity care by costs and fears of deportation.

White Ribbon Alliance is a signatory to a letter to Jeremy Hunt, published in the Guardian on October 11th 2017, here.

You can help by amplifying this coverage and increasing our collective impact.

Signatories to the Open Letter

Over 300 doctors and 50 nurses have signed the letter, which also has the backing of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Royal College of Midwives, the Faculty of Homeless and Inclusion Health, the Faculty of Public Health and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Sir David Nicholson, former CEO of NHS England has also endorsed the letter as have a wide range of civil society groups and human rights organisations like Liberty and Amnesty International UK; children’s charities like Coram and Children’s Society; race equality groups like the Runnymede Trust and Race Equality Foundation; refugee, asylum and migrant rights charities like the Refugee Council and Migrants Organise, as well as trade union, Unite, to name only a few.

The letter is available online here.

The letter has been sent to Jeremy Hunt and Labour frontbench MPs who we are calling on to pray against the regulations in Parliament. The release of the letter will also increase pressure on the Opposition to take up the issue and secure a parliamentary debate. In parallel, campaign partners have been approaching Peers and asking them to table a Fatal Motion. A Regret Motion has been tabled by Labour in the House of Lords but we are still looking to raise awareness among Peers and secure a Fatal Motion.

 

TAKE ACTION

You can write to and visit your MP or if you have contacts with any Peers, ask them to support the campaign as above.

In the meantime, please help raise awareness and build momentum behind the campaign as we only have a few weeks before they are due to come into force.

Join @WRA_UK and @WRAGlobal on Twitter, targeting @Jeremy_Hunt and using #PatientsNotPassports and #NHS.


SUPPORT OUR WORK IN THE UK

White Ribbon Alliance in the UK is fundraising to hold a series of Peer Journalism workshops, so that refugee and migrant women can take the lead in gathering the evidence for change which policy makers and media say is missing.

Since 2015, working with partners (including Birthrights, Maternity Action, City of Sanctuary, Refugee Council and Royal Exchange Theatre) we have often heard that policy makers and mainstream media need such evidence. However, the most vulnerable women in our society – often pregnant women and new mothers who don’t even know their rights - are not being asked for that evidence. Many of them are undocumented, and so by definition they are uncounted and living beyond the reach of official surveys. They may also be rightly afraid to speak out, given the risks of detention and/or deportation. So how do we make the hidden experiences of women visible, how do we safely make their voices heard?

 

PEER JOURNALISM WORKSHOP

For several years we have been gathering women’s stories through film and photography. We now propose to step that up with a number of ‘Peer journalism’ workshops for migrant and asylum-seeking women. Building on the model of White Ribbon Alliance’s ‘citizen journalism’ workshops in Africa and Asia, this is an effective way to empower women, to tell hitherto unheard stories to decision makers and opinion formers who have the power to bring about change, and to enable communities to hold leaders to account.

 

For more information contact bmcconville@whiteribbonalliance.org

To donate in support of our work, go to WRA UK's My Donate Page.


SPREAD THE WORD

Please see some suggested Tweets below:

  • Pleased to support call to @Jeremy_Hunt to reverse harmful changes to accessing #NHS care #PatientsNotPassports bit.ly/2gtw4vg
  • I’ve joined over 1000 orgs & health professionals calling on @Jeremy_Hunt to withdraw new #NHS regs #patientsnotpassorts
  • New ID checks & upfront charging in #NHS carry serious risks to individuals & society #PatientsNotPassports bit.ly/2gtw4vg
  • Will @UKLabour act to stop changes that undermine the founding principles of the #NHS? #PatientsNotPassports bit.ly/2gtw4vg

 

Thanks once again for your support and we will update this page to keep you posted.

Best Wishes,

Brigid McConville

bmcconville@whiteribbonalliance.org

 

For questions or queries, you can also get in touch with the below who are key drivers of the campaign: