Organising against the ‘hostile environment’: poster for GP surgeries

Following the revelation that NHS Digital handed over an incredible 8,000+ patients’ records to Immigration Enforcement last year, it is clear that state attempts to create an even more ‘hostile environment’ for undocumented migrants in Britain need to be urgently stopped in their tracks by individual and collective acts of courage and defiance.

It is despicable that potentially thousands unwell and vulnerable people sought medical help, and that this was then used against them and their families for the purposes of Immigration Enforcement. How many dawn raids have resulted from this vile marriage of NHS Digital and Immigration Enforcement? How many people ripped apart from friends and families, detained and deported? How many NHS staff entered patients details into their computer systems oblivious to the fact that senior management were sharing this with the Home Office?

We need to get organised against this institutionalised racism and increasing social control — and fast. As as first step, one person managed to get his local GP surgery to pledge not to check anyone’s immigration status. Here is his account:

“From April 2016, it’s been a requirement for all GP practices in England to set up a patient participation group or “patients’ forum”. I was asked in late 2016 by my GP if I was willing to participate.

One of the potential jobs of a patients’ forum is ensuring patients are aware of their rights and identifying ways of improving how surgeries are run. I live in a council ward of east London where only 37% of people were born in England: most came from India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh and the average age is 30. There is always a constant shift in the population and lots of people in rented, often crowded housing. The rates for TB infection are amongst the highest in Europe.

I had heard stories of GP surgeries demanding to see proof of immigration status and about the pressure from the government on the NHS to share data on patients in order to track down potential “illegal” migrants. So, at my surgery’s patients’ forum last month, I raised the idea of making a public declaration that our surgery would never ask for a patient’s passport as proof of their identification.

I expected a battle on this, but there was complete agreement from the rest of the forum and also from the GP. We talked about the importance of ensuring as many people as possible are registered, particularly to ensure early diagnosis of TB but also mental health issues and general medical advice in an area where only 45% of the residents speak English.

The plan now is to encourage other GPs in the local Clinical Commissioning Group area to take up this public stance and display posters too.”

This poster can be used by GP surgeries who want to make it clear that they oppose government attempts to turn them into Home Office informers. See here for a full size pdf version of the poster for downloading and printing.