All around the hospital signs can be seen: assertive reminders to EU patients to bring their European Health Identification Cards (EHICs); reiterating that any patient may be asked for identification or proof of residency; and threatening to charge for treatment if these are not shown upon request.
I cannot help but wonder whether it is the job of healthcare professionals, who are working in an increasingly stretched environment, to scrutinise the healthcare rights of patients. What’s more, how will this be done? Will all patients with non-English sounding names be asked or will judgements of nationality be made on appearance? This seems in direct opposition of the founding principles of our healthcare system and the Hippocratic Oath: to treat all patients regardless of background and to maintain confidentiality unless there are exceptional circumstances. It is not doctors, nurses or any allied health professional’s responsibility to police the NHS, only to treat those who need treatment.
Not only is there neither the time nor the resources for us to find out the healthcare entitlements of each patient; it seems like a misplaced endeavour. In my opinion, these posters and their message insinuate that this ‘misuse’ of care is the cause of the struggles within our NHS. The reality is that a number of factors, political, social and financial, have led to the current crisis.
On top of this, the perceived requirement for patients to bring passports to appointments or A&E acts as a barrier to care, particularly for those from marginalised backgrounds who are less likely to own passports themselves.
Let us continue with our actual jobs: ensuring the safest and highest care possible for all our patients. Moreover, let us take a moment to appreciate and promote our colleagues from a diverse range of backgrounds, who we work alongside each day.
Great article Katherine. While I agree that as medical staff it shouldn't be our Job to check the nationality and healthcare rights of our patients, do you think it should be someones job? I guess the question is, either we treat everyone for free regardless of nationality or we decide that everyone should have their healthcare rights verified by the receptionist when they enter the hospital.
Whatever we decide, we definitely can't continue with the current practice of picking on people who look foreign.