Press release

Proposals to reform migrant access to health and housing unveiled

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The next step in cross-government plans to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live in the UK unlawfully, and to ensure legal migrants make a fair contribution to our key public services, has been launched today.

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Migrant contribution to healthcare

Currently, short term migrants coming to study or work with more than six months on their visas are likely to qualify for free hospital care as soon as they enter the UK. A charge would ensure that migrants contribute towards the cost of their healthcare while not increasing red tape and administration for NHS professionals.

The Government will consult on plans to introduce the levy as an upfront charge and whether private health insurance could be a good alternative. A levy could be paid at the time of applying for their visa or further stay for non EEA temporary residents who are allowed to stay for up to five years. Views will be sought on the level at which this levy should be set and how private insurance could play a role.

Better checks, tracking and charging in the NHS

We will consult on plans to make sure those who should pay for NHS services do so by working with doctors and others to get their views on a range of new initiatives.

The consultation proposes:

  • stopping those visiting for less than six months from getting free access to GP surgeries by introducing charging, as currently used in hospitals; and

  • a new registration and tracking system for chargeable visitors before they first join a GP surgery – possibly linked to the NHS number, alongside better checks to enforce charges for care in both hospitals and sustainable primary care.

The consultation aims to create a system that is fair for everyone without denying treatment to those whose health is in immediate danger or a risk to public health.

Proposals also include:

  • improving the way the NHS claims back EEA visitors’ treatment from their home countries; and

  • giving expatriate UK citizens access to free NHS care after they have paid up to 10 years of National Insurance contributions.

It is unclear how widely migrants use the NHS and the true cost and impact they have. In order to gain a better understanding the Department of Health has commissioned an independent audit of use by visitors and temporary migrants that will run alongside the consultation and report back in September.

Landlord checks to tackle illegal migration

We will introduce a requirement for landlords to check the immigration status of tenants. The checks will be simple and light touch but enable enforcement officers to take additional action against rogue landlords by introducing a penalty for those who break the rules.

The changes will benefit communities blighted by unlawful structures, so-called ‘beds in sheds’, and overcrowded houses that can bring social problems and costs to local communities.

They will be modelled closely on existing controls for the employment of illegal workers, which are well established and have operated successfully for the last five years.

The government proposes a graduated enforcement approach - with proportionate penalties for those landlords who make a single honest mistake, and much heavier penalties, up to £3,000 per tenant, for rogue landlords who repeatedly and deliberately break the law. The Home Office also plans to offer landlords support in checking documents through an enquiry service.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

We are clear that the NHS is a national health service not an international health service and I am determined to cut out abuse in the system.

We need to ensure that those residing in or visiting the UK are contributing to the system, but we want work to implement a system that limits red tape and administration for NHS professionals.

The NHS is a national treasure and we need to work with the entire health system to develop plans and make sure it is sustainable for years to come.

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said:

The government is determined to build a fairer system and to address the public’s concern about immigration. The proposals will form part of the Immigration Bill, to be introduced later this year, which will tighten immigration law, strengthen our enforcement powers and clamp down on those from overseas who try to abuse our public services.

By reducing access to free NHS care and rented accommodation for illegal migrants, we will make it more difficult for them to stay in the country leading to more returns and removals.

This Bill is the next step in the radical reform of the immigration system which has led to a reduction in net migration - now at its lowest level for a decade.

Background

1.The government will publish three consultations today seeking views on these proposals:

a. The Department of Health is issuing the consultation “Sustaining Services, ensuring fairness: A consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to NHS provision in England.” It can be found here

b. The Home Office is issuing two consultations: “Migrant Access to Health Services in the UK” and “ Tackling illegal migration in privately rented accommodation” .

  1. For further details contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5010 or the Home Office on 020 7035 3535.
Published 3 July 2013