COVID-19: children on the front line : Dr John Puntis

Charging those with uncertain immigration status for NHS services was introduced as part of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’. Non-payment of bills can result in being reported to the Home Office and used as a reason for not being granted settled status. This system remains in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, actively discouraging healthcare seeking through the threat of immigration enforcement.

Of around 618 000 people living in the UK but without the documentation to prove a regular immigration status, it is estimated that 144 000 are children,1 half having been born here. The legislation over charging introduced by the government under the spurious pretext of targeting ‘health tourism’ represented an unprecedented departure from the founding principles of the NHS and, among other adverse effects, has a negative impact on child health

Full article:
Children on front line artcle re migrant charges by John Puntis in ADC june 20


Yorkshire Health Campaigns Together Update and Migrant Surcharges letter for reuse

Yorks HCT meeting 29.5.20 (pdf)

Summary of actions:

  • Circulate Leeds letter calling for both and end to NHS surcharges on workers from overseas and to charging migrants and others with undocumented status so groups can amend and use if they wish.
  • Contact Gilda if you want to order one or more KONP rainbow banners : £25 for one including p&p but cheaper for larger quantities.
  • John to write a letter to the Catholic Diocese and C of E education urging delay in opening schools with assistance from Nick.
  • Local groups to start planning local action on or around Sat.4th July paying due attention to safety issues and share ideas: NHS birthday events and materials can be found at

NB Please write to your MP to ask them to oppose the dangerous possibility of the NHS being on the table in the US trade deal negotiations. For info see We Own It’s website, especially the briefing from the trade justice group.

You can also take a pic of yourself with this poster and post it widely.

Next meeting June 26th   4 – 5.30pm       ( Zoom info to be sent with a reminder closer to 26th)

The letter re NHS surcharges and migrant charges which Leeds KONP sent to councillors, the CCG, Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust and some MPs in case you would like to adapt it for your own use:

Open letter to Leeds MPs,  councillors  and  hospitals  re  NHS Charges  1st May 2020

At this critical time when it is vital that there is unfettered access for all to the NHS, we are writing to you to urge you to take action to remove from our NHS all barriers to health care faced by overseas workers, migrants and anyone with undocumented status living in the UK.

The pandemic has highlighted:

  • That people born outside the UK account for almost a quarter of all staff working in hospitals and a fifth of all health and social care staff in the UK (1). Not only are our health and social care systems disproportionately reliant on overseas workers but staff from black and minority ethnic communities are dying from Covid-19 at a much higher rate than others and almost half of those staff who have died were born overseas (2).
  • That there is an uncomfortable and unjust disjuncture between the selfless work of staff from overseas who pay the same taxes as we do and the fact that they have to pay hefty fees to use the same NHS many of them are working so hard to sustain! These fees are currently over £400 per year but the Govt. has been planning to raise them to £625 and this applies not just to the staff member but each member of their family. For example a health professional from abroad with a partner and two children will have to pay £2,500 a year. The Home office acknowledged that the fees raised only £300m a year between 2015 and 2018. They were part of hostile environment legislation designed to deter immigration to the UK. (3)
  • That creating barriers to using the NHS for migrants and other undocumented residents in the UK is unsafe for all of us as well as generating fear and anxiety. Although treatment for Covid-19 is free, fear of charging down the line and of being reported to the Home Office by health authorities deters those people with uncertain status from using the NHS. Everyone must now feel confident to seek treatment as needed and to aid in tracing contacts of anyone identified as infected with the virus (4) a strategy the World Health Organisation is urging all countries to adopt (5). Ireland, Portugal and South Korea have already taken action to remove barriers. In the UK sixty cross party MPs have sent a letter to the Health Secretary calling for the immediate suspension of charging for migrants and all associated data sharing between the NHS and the Home office (6). It follows a similar demand to Government from medical groups including the British Medical Association and Doctors of the World UK.

We believe that now, more than ever, it is vital to end the hostile environment in the NHS and ensure unfettered access for everyone to free health care. We are one community!

We therefore call on our MPs to urge the Government:  

  • to drop surcharges for health care on workers from overseas
  • stop all migrant charges and publicise this widely to encourage people to use the NHS when needed

We call on our Local Hospitals to:

  • Suspend the NHS charges and stop reporting patient details and debt to the Home Office
  • Take down all “hostile environment“ notices from hospitals and clinics
  • Convey to the public that your hospital intends to treat everyone, freely and regardless of immigration status, as part of the effort to contain COVID-19

We call on our local Council to give substance to the title “City of Sanctuary” by:

  • Doing all in their power to support and encourage ending health charges to migrants and health surcharges on staff from overseas

We call on trade unions, political party branches/constituencies and community organisations

  • To endorse and publicise this letter to your members and use your political influence to pursue these demands.


  4. BMJ Covid-19: Contact tracing requires ending the hostile environment.
  5. BMJ editorial “Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO’s advice?”



Urgent actions required

Urgent action needed to protect the NHS from Trade Deals.

KONP , working with Global Justice Now and We Own It et al are asking everyone to contact their MPs NOW to urge them to protect our NHS from trade deals.Negotiations are underway with the US, and the Trade Bill is due to have a second reading in Parliament this Wednesday 20 May. Go to

Help build a campaign to end charging migrants and other people with undocumented status for health care and to drop health surcharges on workers from overseas.


Please read the attached open letter to our MPs, councillors, Leeds Teaching Hospitals and trade union, political and community organisations signed by Dr John Puntis, national Co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public and Chair of Leeds KONP, Dr Martin Schweiger, Retired Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Jane Aitchison, President of Leeds TUC and Wilson Tweed , Chair of staff side at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. And please send the letter to your MPs and councillors asking them to take action, take it to meetings of any organisations in which you are involved and ask them to endorse the letter, pass it on to your contacts and let us know of any endorsements, feedback etc.

Info and joining info for the Health Campaigns Together / KONP webinar on “ Fighting Covid: International lessons and Warnings” on line this Tuesday 19 may 7pm
Register here

We will be discussing social care at our next Leeds KONP mtg 27th May and have invited speakers.

Yorkshire Health Campaigns Together Meeting minutes

Yorks HCT mtg 1.5.20 final

Summary Action Agreed

  1. Push the “Test, test, test, PPE, Keep Key Workers Virus free” message. Gilda can send A4 rainbow poster on request and will pass on a new one 999 is preparing
  2. Consider taking the clap out from our streets to more public places such as outside hospitals, maybe even Social Care homes.
  3. Spread campaign re migrant charging (Leeds open letter attached)
  4. Press local and regional health and Social Care Scrutiny Boards to meet (Jenny writing)
  5. Start some serious campaigning for a national, free at the point of use, public national Social care service.
  6. Don’t lose sight of Trade deals and exert what pressure we can on our MPs et al
  7. Do all we can to support whistle-blowers
  8. Think creatively about co-ordinated celebration, protest, campaigning and maybe even marching in July. Possibly on the weekend of 4th and 5th and maybe 25th as well.

Nationalising Special Purpose Vehicles to end PFI: a discussion of the costs and benefits by Helen Mercer and Dexter Whitfield:


Important Public Meeting online, May 5th 7pm, Coronavirus crisis: What now for the NHS?


Richard Horton – Editor of The Lancet
Professor Allyson Pollock – Consultant in public health and director of Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science
Dr John Lister – editor of Health Campaigns Together, co-editor of The Lowdown (
Dr Sonia Adesara – Junior Doctor and member of KONP’s NHS Staff Voices group
Pam Kleinot – Producer of Under The Knife

This is an online meeting held via Zoom, an easy to use videoconferencing app.

Please register:

Join Keep Our NHS Public and Health Campaigns Together, to hear from expert analysts, frontline NHS workers and the producer of Under The Knife (feature documentary on the  covert dismantling of the NHS) to hear about how, aggravated by Government arrogance and failure in the early stage of the Coronavirus outbreak, the NHS has been defunded, understaffed and fragmented by privatisation to such an extent that it’s preparedness for the current emergency has been severely undermined and has needlessly cost lives.