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NHS will charge EU citizens for treatment after a no-deal Brexit




EU citizens living in the UK will reportedly be forced to prove their right to free healthcare under the NHS after a no-deal Brexit, according to a report, in a move which campaigners have called “discriminatory and outrageous.”

In a document provided to the NHS, the Department of Health indicated that hospital trusts should be prepared to charge EU citizens who are currently eligible for free treatment “immediately after exit day,” the Times reported.

The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU on October 31, and Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, despite warnings from campaign groups that a no-deal outcome would leave EU citizens without proper legal status and struggling to access basic services such as healthcare.

The government earlier this year passed legislation which allowed ministers to strike reciprocal deals with other EU countries that would allow citizens to be treated free of charge.

But few agreements have been reached because agreements need to be struck between individual members states.

That means, according to official government guidance, that EU citizens will not be eligible for free healthcare if they move to or visit the UK.

EU citizens currently living in the UK are eligible for free healthcare but will need to provide documentation to do so, something the document leaked to the Times reinforces.

In advice to NHS trusts, it says that “operational practices” to ensure that “charging regulations” are enforced will need to be in place immediately after Brexit, meaning that they will need to implement eligibility checks for EU citizens.

An estimated one in three citizens have registered for the “settled status” scheme which provides EU citizens with a legal right to remain in the country, meaning many do not necessarily have documentation which proves their right to remain in the country.

The document says: “The changes to the charging regulations will come into force immediately after exit day if there is a no-deal Brexit. You should make sure that any changes to your operational practices are implemented from that point forward. You should work closely with your organisation’s senior responsible officer for Brexit preparation and their teams, to make sure that you are operationally ready to implement the new charging regulations after exit day.”

Maike Bohn, co-founder of the3million, a group which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens, said in a statement: “Such a move is discriminatory and outrageous.”

“The new guidance is creating a hostile environment for millions of EU nationals who have the right to free healthcare in the UK but won’t be able to prove it. This outrageous decision spells chaos as the two groups of EU citizens will be indistinguishable to the NHS and we are running the risk of people being denied vital treatment they are fully entitled to.”

The Department for Health has been contacted for comment.

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