On Tuesday 24 July, Medact supported healthcare workers and humanitarians to return their government honours in protest at the ‘hostile environment’ policies in the NHS.
18 people who received medals for their work in West Africa during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak returned their medals to Government. The group were joined by Lord Alfred Dubs, who accepted their medals and returned them to the government.
“It is disturbing that the immigration checks in the NHS mean that many migrants, refugees and other vulnerable people are, in practice all too often being denied access to life saving medical care. I am supporting doctors and other medical professions who are asking for the repeal of these regulations, especially to remove charging for pregnant women, new-borns and children.”
– Lord Alfred Dubs
Those returning their medals call on the government to:
- Repeal the October 2017 regulations enforcing immigration checks and upfront charging.
- Remove charges for pregnant women, newborns and children as priority.
- Suspend NHS charging regulations, given their clear evidence of harm, and carry out a public health impact assessment, particularly focusing on vulnerable groups.
“I was really honoured to receive a medal from the government for my voluntary work during the Ebola crisis. It’s been a really difficult decision to return it but I believe strongly that I should use my voice to stand up against the current NHS charging regulations that are deterring patients from accessing healthcare and causing unnecessary harm.
“These regulations are really complicated and many healthcare professionals are not fully aware of their intricacies. In reality, there are many examples where they have been wrongly applied and patients have care delayed or denied inappropriately, causing massive physical and emotional harm to patients. I also find that it completely undermines my role as a doctor and the trust in the doctor-patient relationship.”
– Dr Claire Ferraro, NHS Doctor in Sexual Health & HIV Medicine, who worked in Sierra Leone as an Ebola Doctor for four months in 2014/5
“I myself know of cases of critically unwell pregnant women leaving hospital for fear of charging, and I have seen others that were scared away from antenatal care whose babies have suffered needlessly as a result, with issues that will have life long impact. We were honoured for crossing borders to treat patients, now the government is creating borders between us and our patients at home. As a paediatric doctor, I was trained to save lives, not police borders. I cannot accept immigration rules dictating whether my patients live or die.”
– Dr Neal Russell, NHS paediatrician, humanitarian worker in Sierra Leone in 2015 and member of Medact’s Refugee Solidarity Group
The campaign has so far been covered in:
- The New Statesman
- The Guardian
- Huffington Post
- Al Jazeera
- The BMJ
- on Twitter with #medals4migranthealth
- BBC radio Wales
- Sky News
- British Journal of General Practice
The medal holders also wrote to Theresa May to express their concern at the charging regime: