Charging migrants to access NHS treatment risks increasing TB in the UK

The government’s intention to charge migrants to access NHS treatment could unwittingly damage the health of the wider population. For infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, discouraging people from accessing primary care will lead to them arriving at A&E when their symptoms are advanced, and only after they are likely to have infected other people.

TB Alert’s experience of working with migrant communities highlights that many people do not access health services that they are entitled to – often due to a lack of awareness of their rights or through a distrust of public bodies. For conditions such as TB, this has important consequences. Effective TB control is dependent on early diagnosis and treatment. This limits the impact on the health of affected individuals and the risk that they will pass TB on to others. An individual with untreated infectious TB can infect 10-15 people annually. Each new TB case would cost the NHS thousands to treat – tens of thousands for new multi-drug resistant TB cases.

Mike Mandelbaum, Chief Executive of TB Alert, said: “TBA is working with Public Health England to develop a strategy on TB. We need to ensure that policies are properly coordinated, between the NHS and Public Health, so that plans to protect the health service from misuse do not unintentionally jeopardise progress that is being made in tackling the threat of infectious diseases.”

Read more about planned changes on BBC health.

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