From The Guardian:
Failed asylum seekers not entitled to free NHS treatment
Refugee and health charities expressed dismay after the appeal court ruled yesterday that failed asylum seekers with chronic illnesses were not entitled to free health care on the NHS.
But the three appeal judges also ruled that hospitals have the discretion to provide free treatment to such individuals if they cannot afford to pay for it.
The case involved a Palestinian man, known only as 'YA', with chronic liver disease who was initially refused free treatment to prevent liver failure. He was unable to return to the West Bank because of Israeli travel restrictions but the hospital had refused to treat him for free because of the Department of Health guidance.
Lord Justice Ward said that to receive free NHS treatment the patient must have resided lawfully in the UK for at least a year. YA, whose asylum case was still being investigated, was therefore deemed not ordinarily resident. He had taken his case to the high court, where a judge declared government guidance to hospitals was unlawful because it advised NHS trusts to charge failed asylum seekers. The appeal court said the guidance did not make clear enough the fact that hospitals must consider providing treatment in such cases.
YA's lawyer, Adam Hundt, said that access to vital medical treatment for thousands of refused asylum seekers rested on the case. He said: "The Department of Health guidance said that hospitals should not provide treatment unless patients paid for it in advance, but this ignores the fact that many of these patients, like A, are destitute, and many cannot return home, so they are not treated until they require life-saving treatment."
He said treatment often came too late and was usually far more expensive at that stage. "The current rules don't make clinical, economic or humanitarian sense, and I am glad that the court has recognised this. I hope the Department of Health will now make it clear to hospitals that they must treat patients who cannot pay and cannot return home for the time being - and not wait until they are at death's door."
The health secretary, Alan Johnson, who took the case to the appeal court, welcomed the decision. He said that his department accepted the lack of clarity in the official guidance for hospitals. "We will ensure that the guidance is amended."
But the decision disappointed refugee and health welfare groups. Donna Covey, of the Refugee Council, said she was concerned that the charging regime for failed asylum seekers was still in place. She said those people who were unable to go home straight away often ended up destitute and homeless. "To refuse treatment to them simply because they cannot pay for it is appalling and inhumane," she said.
Deborah Jack, of the National Aids Trust, said anxiety over medical bills would deter many people from seeking the care they needed. She said the government should use its review of healthcare charges to end its policy of ill-health for the most destitute.
In every Western country, treatment for chronic liver disease, like liver transplants themselves, is carefully rationed. Those who attempt to take every advantage, to arrive with their hocus-pocus and flim-flam claiming "refugee status," and then to have UK taxpayers pay for their expensive treatments, should be sent back to the places they normally live in, and receive the treatment that they could normallly expect. I doubt if the Israelis would prevent the man in question, whether a Gazan Arab or a "West Bank" Arab, from returning to receive exactly the treatment, the level of care, that the Arabs customarily have on offer. Or, if he is suspected of involvement in participation in, or support of, terrorism (the only reason Israel would not let him into Gaza or the "West Bank") why is he being allowed into the UK? And why is not the most obvious place to send him -- one of those fabulously rich sheikdoms, those tribes with flags, or even Saudi Arabia itself -- that can certainly afford to treat one of their own, an Arab, a Muslim, a member of the Umma Of Believers. Why should Infidels pick up the gigantic tab? On what grounds?