Surveys by the the charity 'Doctors of the World' which runs a clinic at Bethnal Green, East London, found that 83% of their patients had no access to the NHS. 57.5% of the patients they saw are immigrants who do not have permissions to reside in the UK, but most were individuals who had resided in the UK for six-and-a-half years and are clearly not health tourists. Yet they were still afraid to access medical treatment due to fear of being arrested, administrative and legal barriers. Language barrier, lack of knowledge or understanding of the healthcare system and their rights to medical treatment are also part of the reasons of not practicing the conventional healthcare.
The charity’s annual survey of access to healthcare in Europe is based on the experiences of more than 22,000 individuals, 1400 of them in London. 15 % of the Londoners surveyed were asylum seekers and 12% had a visa, both groups which were entitled to healthcare. The charity’s report, published in March showed that among those regularly denied access to healthcare are pregnant women, even when they are entitled.
“The failure to ensure equitable access to healthcare across Europe is this century’s hidden public health time bomb. European states must recognise and address this looming public health crisis without delay not least because it makes sound economic, as well as health sense,” said Leigh Daynes, executive director of Doctors of the World UK.