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Theresa May refuses to intervene over man’s £54,000 NHS cancer bill

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Theresa May refuses to intervene over man’s £54,000 NHS cancer bill” was written by Amelia Gentleman, for The Guardian on Thursday 22nd March 2018 16.55 UTC

Theresa May has refused to intervene in the case of Albert Thompson, the London cancer patient asked to pay £54,000 for treatment despite having lived in the UK for 44 years, as it emerged that there could be tens of thousands of people in a similarly uncertain immigration position.

Thompson, 63, is not receiving the radiotherapy treatment he needs for prostate cancer because he has been unable to provide officials with sufficient documentary evidence showing that he has lived in the UK continuously since arriving from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973. He is unable to pay the £54,000 fee.

May said responsibility for the decision to charge Thompson ahead of treatment lay with the Royal Marsden hospital. “No urgent treatment should ever be withheld or delayed by the NHS regardless of ability of willingness to pay,” she wrote in a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, who raised the issue at prime minister’s questions last week.

Regulations introduced last October require hospitals to check patients’ paperwork, including passports and proof of address, and charge upfront for their healthcare if they do not have documentary proof of eligibility, unless the treatment is deemed to be urgent. “The decision on whether his treatment is urgent or immediately necessary must rightly be made by the clinicians treating him,” May wrote.

The Royal Marsden has repeatedly said that Thompson’s radiotherapy was not urgent. This surprises some prostate cancer specialists, who are puzzled why treatment prescribed for cancer can subsequently be deemed non-urgent, once the question of ability to pay is raised.

Despite sympathising with “Mr Thompson and the worries he will be facing given his condition”, the prime minister said he needed to “evidence his settled status” in the UK.

Thompson – who has asked for his real name not to be used – is one of a growing group of long-term UK residents facing life-shattering problems as a result of the government’s hostile immigration environment, which has been particularly affecting people who arrived as children from Commonwealth countries.

Research released this week by academics at the University of Oxford-based Migration Observatory suggests that there could be up to 57,000 people potentially vulnerable to similar problems, because although they arrived from Commonwealth countries before 1971, they have never applied for a British passport or been naturalised. Their difficulties are only beginning to emerge now as the government’s tightened immigration regime inadvertently hits the wrong targets.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory, said: “This is an estimate of the population who arrived before 1971 but have not naturalised. It won’t be the case that all 57,000 can’t prove their legal status; we don’t know what share of them have problems with their paperwork and what proportion have everything in order. This is the maximum size of the population who are potentially at risk.”

Paulette Wilson
Paulette Wilson.
Photograph: Fabio De Paola/The Guardian

Thompson’s problems echo those experienced by Paulette Wilson, who was sent last year to an immigration detention centre and threatened with deportation to Jamaica, despite having been in Britain for 50 years. The Guardian has highlighted the cases of numerous other people who have lost their jobs or been made homeless because they are unable to prove they are in the UK legally, despite having lived in the country for over half a century.

Thompson’s lawyer Jeremy Bloom, at Duncan Lewis, said: “The application that Mr Thompson needs to make to regularise his stay is complex and requires a great deal of supporting evidence. Meanwhile, Mr Thompson is being refused potentially life-saving treatment unless he can pay for it. Theresa May does not appear to place much value on the contribution that Mr Thompson has made to the UK since 1973.”

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, highlighted news this week that the Royal Marsden foundation trust predicted it would receive an income of £210m over two years from providing private healthcare. “It’s astonishing that this man still hasn’t been able to access the treatment he needs. This is a trust which is making hundreds of millions from private patients, yet seemingly refusing to provide urgent cancer care,” he said.

A spokesperson for the the Royal Marsden said a cancer specialist would contact Thompson to discuss his treatment while he attempted to get his papers in order. Profits from private treatment were “ploughed back into the NHS for the benefit of our patients” and this had nothing to do with the the trust’s “legal obligation to check eligibility for access to NHS care”, the spokesperson said.

“It is disappointing that NHS staff, who are committed to public service, should be criticised for being professional and fair in applying the principles required of them on eligibility.”

Thompson, who worked as a mechanic and paid taxes for three decades before he became ill, has never applied for a British passport because he thought he had no need to; the Jamaican passport he arrived with was lost many years ago. He has also struggled to prove his eligibility for housing support and is currently living in a hostel. Over 87,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to give him treatment.

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Corbyn writes to May about man’s £54,000 NHS cancer bill

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Corbyn writes to May about man’s £54,000 NHS cancer bill” was written by Amelia Gentleman, for The Guardian on Sunday 18th March 2018 17.52 UTC

Jeremy Corbyn has written to Theresa May about Londoner Albert Thompson’s £54,000 bill for cancer treatment, saying the government risks allowing a patient to die because of difficulties proving immigration status.

Thompson, 63, who has lived continuously in the UK for 44 years since arriving from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973, is not receiving the radiotherapy he needs for prostate cancer because the London hospital where he was due to start treatment last November told him he needed to provide proof of residency or pay upfront for his care.

He was unable to supply officials with required documents, so he was told he needed to find £54,000. Thompson, who has asked for his real name not to be used, is increasingly worried about the potential impact on his health of the delay of more than four months. The Labour leader called on ministers to “intervene immediately in his case to ensure that this man gets access to the care that he needs”.

Corbyn said Thompson’s situation was not unique and he was dealing with a similar case in his constituency, which he had also raised with the Home Office. He said the cases were a direct result of new regulations introduced last October requiring hospital departments and community health services to check every patient’s paperwork, including passports and proof of address, and charge upfront for their healthcare if they did not have documentary proof of eligibility.

The case raised the prospect that many undocumented British citizens were being denied free NHS treatment, and that the principle of the universal NHS, free at the point of need, was being eroded, he wrote.

“Every patient, including British citizens, can be asked about their residency status and made to prove they are entitled to free NHS care,” he said. He quoted concerns raised by the shadow spokesperson for health and social care, Philip Hunt, who said in the Lords last year that, as a result of the new regulations, “many people who legitimately live here and have every right to NHS treatment are going to be challenged by the NHS”.

Thompson, who worked as a mechanic before he became ill, has never applied for a British passport because he had no need to, but the Jamaican passport he arrived with was lost many years ago. In the tightened hostile immigration environment, launched by Theresa May in 2013, he has struggled to prove his eligibility for housing support and free healthcare.

A spokesperson for the hospital said Thompson “continues to be treated by his GP as directed by the cancer specialist. His radiotherapy is not urgent. We are very sorry this has caused Mr Thompson distress and uncertainty and are working hard to try to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

Thompson said he had not seen a GP about his prostate cancer treatment since early last year.

Doctors have expressed confusion at the decision to classify the radiotherapy as non-urgent. Joe Rylands, a spokesperson for Docs Not Cops, a group of healthcare professionals campaigning to protect free access to healthcare for all people, said: “I cannot foresee any circumstances whereby a patient has been deemed to need ‘discretionary’ radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Either they need it by team decision, when it is potentially life-saving, or they don’t. To withdraw it on the basis of nationality appears unethical and incompatible with the principles of the NHS.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister had received the letter and would respond in due course. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our guidance makes clear that urgent and immediately necessary care should never be withheld or delayed.”

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