Cancer dilemma

J'can in UK told to pay 54,000 for treatment unless citizenship proven

Monday, March 26, 2018

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A Jamaican man in the United Kingdom is being refused treatment for prostate cancer despite living there for more than 40 years, Britain's Guardian newspaper has reported.

The newspaper report names the man as Albert Thompson, 63, and said he has not been receiving the radiotherapy treatment he needs because he has been unable to provide officials with sufficient documentary evidence that he has lived in the UK continuously since arriving from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973.

Thompson, the Guardian said, was told to provide the evidence or pay 54,000 for his treatment.

Britain's Prime Minister Teresa May, in a letter to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who brought the situation to her attention, said: “No urgent treatment should ever be withheld or delayed by the NHS regardless of ability of willingness to pay.”

The Guardian reported that regulations introduced last October require hospitals to check patients' paperwork, including passports and proof of address, and charge upfront for their health care if they do not have documentary proof of eligibility unless the treatment is deemed to be urgent. “The decision on whether his treatment is urgent or immediately necessary must rightly be made by the clinicians treating him,” Prime Minister May wrote.

The article said that The Royal Marsden Hospital has determined that Thompson's radiotherapy was not urgent. However, the statement has puzzled some prostate cancer specialists who wonder why treatment prescribed for cancer can subsequently be deemed non-urgent, once the question of ability to pay is raised.

The newspaper report said that although May sympathised with Thompson “and the worries he will be facing, given his condition”, she said he needed to “evidence his settled status” in the UK.

Thompson, the newspaper said, “is one of a growing group of long-term UK residents facing life-shattering problems as a result of the Government's hostile immigration environment, which has been particularly affecting people who arrived as children from Commonwealth countries”.

The Guardian also reported that research conducted by academics at the University of Oxford-based Migration Observatory indicated that there could be up to 57,000 people potentially vulnerable to similar problems. This is because, “although they arrived from Commonwealth countries before 1971, they have never applied for a British passport or been naturalised. Their difficulties are only beginning to emerge now as the Government's tightened immigration regime inadvertently hits the wrong targets.”

“This is an estimate of the population who arrived before 1971 but have not naturalised,” the article quotes Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory. “It won't be the case that all 57,000 can't prove their legal status; we don't know what share of them have problems with their paperwork and what proportion have everything in order. This is the maximum size of the population who are potentially at risk.”

Thompson's lawyer, Jeremy Bloom, is reported as saying that the application that his client needs to make to regularise his stay is complex and requires a great deal of supporting evidence.

“Meanwhile, Mr Thompson is being refused potentially life-saving treatment unless he can pay for it. Theresa May does not appear to place much value on the contribution that Mr Thompson has made to the UK since 1973,” the Guardian quoted Bloom.

The news article stated that a spokesperson for The Royal Marsden said a cancer specialist would contact Thompson to discuss his treatment while he attempted to get his papers in order. Profits from private treatment were “ploughed back into the NHS for the benefit of our patients” and this had nothing to do with the trust's “legal obligation to check eligibility for access to NHS care”, the spokesperson said.

“It is disappointing that NHS staff, who are committed to public service, should be criticised for being professional and fair in applying the principles required of them on eligibility,” the article quotes the spokesperson as saying.

According to the Guardian, Thompson, who worked as a mechanic and paid taxes for three decades before he became ill, has never applied for a British passport because he thought he had no need to. The Jamaican passport he arrived with was lost many years ago. He has also struggled to prove his eligibility for housing support and is currently living in a hostel.

The Guardian has highlighted numerous cases of individuals who cannot access certain benefits because they are unable to prove they are in the UK legally. Over 87,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Government to give Thompson treatment.

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