Health professionals must challenge health care restrictions for migrant children

  • Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Professional News
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By charging undocumented child migrants for healthcare, the UK is failing its obligations under the UN convention on children’s rights, argue experts in an editorial published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The authors call for health professionals to collect evidence of the harm being caused by Government policies that restrict migrant children’s access to health care.

The authors say current NHS charging regulations “undermine child health and represent an unprecedented departure from the founding principles of the NHS”. They call on health professionals to “independently and systematically collect evidence on the harm of restricting children’s access to healthcare” to counter the narrative of “health tourism”. “Internal governmental reviews relying on passive reporting without prior awareness-raising among frontline clinicians, cannot be relied on,” they say.

They point out that while some condition-specific exemptions to NHS regulations exist, there is limited awareness of these. The authors say child health professionals need to be aware of the regulations, “including their power to define conditions as urgent, identify exemptions and challenge charging decisions”.

“NHS charging regulations undermine the government’s stated commitments to child health and our obligations to children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 24), and contradict recommendations outlined in the UN Global Compact for Migration, signed by the UK in December 2018,” the authors write.

“Ultimately, health professionals will be instrumental in advocating against the NHS charging system and its links to immigration enforcement, and for restoring universal health coverage and the right to health for children,” they add.