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Windrush man charged for NHS cancer treatment loses legal challenge against 'hostile environment' regulations

High Court refuses judicial review of 2017 NHS regulations that make people who cannot prove British residency pay for treatment

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 10 December 2018 11:58 GMT
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Why is the Home Office getting so many immigration decisions wrong?

A member of the Windrush generation who was refused cancer treatment after living in the UK for more than 40 years has lost a legal challenge against the government.

A High Court judge refused an attempt to bring a judicial review of controversial NHS regulations that force people who cannot prove UK residency to pay for treatment in advance.

Mr Justice Lewis said the government was not legally required to hold a public consultation before bringing in the rules, or to keep records on people who could be charged, and had complied with equality laws and the National Health Service Act 2006.

“The claim for judicial review of the 2017 regulations is therefore dismissed,” he added.

The claimant, who is in his late 50s and was identified as MP in court proceedings, came to Britain from St Lucia with his family when he was 14.

But in 2015, he was refused leave to remain in the UK at around the time as he was diagnosed with a form incurable blood cancer, the High Court was told at a hearing in July.

MP was told he must pay thousands of pounds for courses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

When he was unable to pay the sum upfront he was refused treatment, the High Court was told.

It only resumed after his lawyers contacted the London hospital trust where he was a patient.

Mother of Windrush man Dexter Bristol who died after months of immigration problems seeks justice

MP asked the High Court to quash regulations which require NHS bodies to secure payment from overseas visitors in advance of treatment, and to record a patient’s immigration status against their NHS number.

His lawyers said the regulations, which were introduced last year as part of a raft of amendments to existing rules, were “significant contribution” to the government’s hostile environment policy.

An impact assessment prepared for the Department of Health in November 2015 acknowledged that some groups would be affected disproportionately, the judgement said, but claimed there would be exemptions for vulnerable groups and that “no person should be denied timely treatment necessary to prevent risks to their life or permanent health”.

Representatives for the health secretary argued that the case was “unfounded” and should be dismissed.

MP, who has served time in prison for a number of serious offences, has been receiving cancer treatment but is still being charged.

His legal team previously told the court MP did not keep any immigration paperwork and the Home Office “appears to have failed to keep any records”.

Jason Coppel QC, representing MP, said at the July hearing that the changes have “far-reaching implications”.

He told the court: “They have a direct impact upon the most vulnerable individuals who will find it particularly difficult to pay for healthcare in advance and in full.

“They target people who may be concerned that their immigration status will be recorded and passed to the immigration authorities when they seek access to healthcare.

“The 2017 regulations are, in short, a significant contribution to the government’s wider policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants to the UK.”

Mr Coppel said that, as with many other members of the Windrush generation, the “approach of the Home Office to immigration record-keeping” caused MP’s immigration status to be questioned and he was eventually refused leave to remain, 10 years after making his application.

MP challenged the Home Office’s decision and is awaiting a separate tribunal ruling on his immigration status, which his lawyers said he is “likely” to win.

The 2017 NHS regulations have been condemned and challenged in a series of other cases, including that of another cancer sufferer.

The 63-year-old, known as Albert Thompson, was told he had to pay £54,000 for radiotherapy unless he could prove he was in the country legally, after 44 years living and working in the UK.

On that occasion, questions in the House of Commons forced Theresa May to intervene and announce he would get the “treatment he needs”.

But Mr Thompson said the issues had been ongoing for years and warned that it was only the “media noise” that led to him getting free treatment.

In another case, lawyers acting for the family of a Windrush man who died after being classified as an illegal immigrant said “racist and xenophobic” government policies had contributed to his death.

An inquest heard that Dexter Bristol, a 57-year-old who came to the UK from Grenada aged eight, collapsed and died of acute failure outside his home in March.

He had been sacked from his cleaning job and then denied benefits because officials did not believe he was in the country legally.

Mr Bristol had not accessed healthcare for two years before he died due to immigration concerns, despite telling friends that he felt unwell.

The coroner refused submissions that the Home Office should be an interested party in proceedings, and declined to seek disclosure of documents relating to Mr Bristol before ruling that he died of natural causes.

Concern that members of the Windrush generation, who came to the UK from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s, were facing deportation and being denied access to healthcare due to paperwork issues and anomalies led to a scandal earlier this year.

The former home secretary Amber Rudd resigned amid a backlash over her department’s immigration policy, which was first described as a “hostile environment” by Theresa May in 2012.

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