Bishop Patrick Lynch calls for 'balanced debate' as Department of Health consultation gets underway

An English bishop has denounced Government plans to introduce a charge for migrants to access NHS services.

Under the new proposals migrants currently eligible for free health care would have to pay a charge upfront before entering the country.

The proposals are currently at consultation stage and the Department of Health has said it is “striving to create a fair system without denying healthcare to those in paramount danger”.

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said: “We are clear that the NHS is a national health service not an international health service and I am determined to cut out abuse in the system.”

But Bishop Patrick Lynch, lead bishop for migration of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has raised a number of concerns about the proposed charge.

“It is not helpful to use the term ‘migrants’ without clarifying that we mean migrants from outside the European Union. Now is not a time for overblown rhetoric – a balanced debate is clearly needed,” he said.

“We should never deny medical care to children under any circumstances and those who are seriously unwell should never feel that they will be turned away if they are unable to pay.

“The proposals do not differentiate between grave, serious and less serious medical conditions and they will put doctors and nurses in an invidious position where they will be prevented from putting patient care first.”

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