Charging migrants for health care could compromise public health and increase costs for the NHS

J Public Health (Oxf). 2016 Jun;38(2):384-90. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdv043. Epub 2015 Apr 22.


Background: This study explores the implications of the UK Department of Health's intention to introduce charging for undocumented migrants for primary health care.

Methods: Following a background review of relevant recent literature, 12 in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with experts on vulnerable populations in England and/or the English health care system, in collaboration with Doctors of the World UK. Data were analysed qualitatively using thematic coding and framework analysis.

Results: Stakeholders were concerned that implementing charging for migrants in England could deter medically necessary treatment, leading to threats to public health and increased health care costs. Interviewees identified potential challenges and opportunities provided by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to improve health care for migrants.

Conclusions: There are considerable concerns about adverse consequences of implementing charges for undocumented migrants. It will be essential to evaluate the effects of this policy once it is implemented.

Keywords: government and law; health services; primary care.

MeSH terms

  • England
  • Fees and Charges*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Politics
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Public Health
  • State Medicine / economics*
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • United Kingdom