Jeremy Corbyn has addressed Theresa May about Londoner Albert Thompson’s £54,000 bill for cancer treatment, stating the government risks leaving a patient to die because of difficulties verifying immigration status.
Albert Thompson, 63, who has resided continuously in the United Kingdom for 44 years after coming from Jamaica as a youngster in 1973, is not getting the radiotherapy he requires for prostate cancer because the London hospital where he was scheduled to commence treatment last November told him he must produce documentation of residency or pay upfront for his care.
He was unable to provide officials with needed papers, and therefore he was informed he must find £54,000.
Albert Thompson, who has asked for his real name not to be used, is increasingly concerned about the possible repercussions on his health because of the delay of more than four months so the Labour leader called on ministers to intervene immediately in his case to ensure that this man gets access to the care that he needs.
Jeremy Corbyn stated Albert Thompson’s position was not unprecedented and he was dealing with a comparable situation in his constituency, which he had further raised with the Home Office.
He said the problems were a primary consequence of new laws introduced last October demanding hospital departments and community health services to review every patient’s paperwork, including passports and evidence of address, and charge upfront for their healthcare if they did not have documentary verification of eligibility.
The case raised the possibility that multiple undocumented British residents were being refused free NHS treatment, and that the principle of the universal NHS, free at the point of need, was being eroded.
All patients, including British subjects, can be challenged about their residency situation and made to show they are qualified to free NHS care.
He cited concerns raised by the shadow spokesperson for health and social care, Philip Hunt, who stated in the Lords last year that, as a consequence of the new laws, many people who legitimately live here and have every freedom to NHS treatment are going to be questioned by the NHS.
Albert Thompson, who worked as a mechanic before he became unwell, has never applied for a British passport because he had no need to, but the Jamaican passport he came with was lost numerous years ago and in the tightened antagonistic immigration environment, driven by Theresa May in 2013, he has struggled to establish his eligibility for housing support and free healthcare.
Clearly, when Albert Thompson came into the country, he came in with a passport and consequently there would be documents to verify this, as he would have had to come through the immigration process, and if the government want him to confirm this fact, the burden of proof should come down to the duty of the party wanting that proof.
Albert Thompson continues to be treated by his GP as directed by the cancer specialist and apparently, his radiotherapy is not urgent and the hospital has stated that they are really sorry this has created Mr Thompson anxiety and uncertainty and they are working hard to try to settle this as promptly as possible.
Albert Thompson said he had not seen a GP about his prostate cancer treatment since early last year.
Doctors have displayed dismay at the choice to classify the radiotherapy as non-urgent and they cannot envision any situations whereby a patient has been considered to require discretionary radiotherapy for prostate cancer.
Either they need it by team decision when it is possibly life-saving, or they don’t and to remove it on the grounds of nationality seems immoral and inconsistent with the policies of the NHS and a Downing Street spokesperson announced the prime minister had received the letter and would answer in due course.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson stated that the guidance makes explicit that urgent and immediately needed care should never be delayed or withheld.
Albert Thompson has no savings, has been made homeless by a similar Home Office debate over his residency situation, and has no way of paying the fee and he cannot understand why he has been ordered to pay it because he has spent his whole adult life here.
He has never had a British passport and was not aware he required one. The Jamaican passport he came to England with was lost countless years ago.
To Albert, it seems like they have done half the job and then left him to die and he would like the hospital to get in touch as he is in a bit more pain and it’s really difficult to get comfortable.
Details of his problem have generated broad outrage from politicians of all parties, NHS staff and the citizens of the United Kingdom and there is an online petition requesting for the NHS to treat him and has accumulated over 47,000 signatures.
The British Medical Association called the case morally indefensible.
A Home Office spokesperson stated that they appreciate the contribution made by Commonwealth residents who have made a life in the United Kingdom and those who have lived in the United Kingdom for a long time but believe they may not have the right documentation verifying their permission to stop here should take legal advice and present the relevant form with accurate documentation so they can progress the matter.
Mr Thompson’s legal delegates were contacted in December to explain how he can regularise his situation in the United Kingdom but have not yet received a request and apparently when the Home Office is informed of matters of this kind, they make sure the applications are dispensed with in a sympathetic way.
Jeremy Bloom, Mr Thompson’s lawyer, stated he was concerned that officials were effectively requiring him to become more critically unwell before treatment would be given and clinical decisions have been made that radiotherapy would be the best course of action for his condition.
It was simply because of the reforms to the NHS changing regulations that this treatment has been classified as not urgent or immediately necessary.
Does the NHS intend to wait until he gets weaker and weaker, and then reclassify the treatment as immediately necessary?
Laura Stahnke from Praxis, the charity that has been helping him, stated that they hope that the hospital and that the Home Office will move swiftly to make sure Albert gets the treatments he urgently requires and obtains his status.
It is revolting that someone who has lived in the United Kingdom and paid taxes for decades has been refused urgent cancer treatment due to his failure to meet a huge bill for his radiotherapy and this goes against the ideals of the NHS.
Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May paid tributes to Stephen Hawking who has now departed from this world and the Labour leader remarked that the scientist was also a strong campaigner for the National Health Service, yet Theresa May insists on making a joke of it.
If we believe in universal healthcare, how can it be conceivable that someone lives and works in this country, pay’s their taxes, but is then refused access to the NHS for life-saving cancer treatment? Can the prime minister explain?
However, Theresa May stated that she wasn’t knowledgeable of the particular case that the right honourable gentleman has raised, well she damn well knows about it now…
I speculate that Albert Thompson is not unique in this and that there are countless more people out there quite like him and consequently Theresa May should be addressing this matter with the Home Office and others.
Albert Thompson stated he was pleased his case had been raised in parliament and he hoped it would urge officials to review the request for payment of £54,000 before his radiotherapy treatment was given.
The rest of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s dialogue was taken up with the NHS, with Jeremy Corbyn rebuking the government over matters including A&E targets, maintaining that Theresa May must get a grip on the situation.