On the day of the EU Referendum, doctors voted against borders. Report by Nick Evans
The British Medical Association voted to denounce charges for migrants trying to access NHS services on Thursday. Delegates at the Annual Representatives Meeting voted on a motion, initially brought by medical students, to run training workshops, commission a report and work with other health unions to help doctors resist being turned into border guards.
An open letter to the BMA, published in OpenDemocracy and the BMJ, signed by NHS and migrant solidarity groups, public health academics, doctors and medical students made sure the motion was debated. The letter criticised the charges for “falsely blaming the crisis on NHS funding on migrants”. It warned that trafficked people and refugees, who theoretically should be exempt, get caught up in the charging process, while those who may be charged delay seeking help, “as in the tragic case of Dalton Messam, who died as a consequence.”
Dr Megan Parsons, who proposed the motion, argued we should look at the “real threats to our NHS, such as under-staffing, under-funding and privatisation”. She said we “should see these migrant charges for what they really are: they’re an attack on our patients, an attack on our healthcare colleagues, and they’re an attack on our BMA members”. Dr Parsons compared doctors to migrants: “we’ve been in their place; we’ve seen statistics skewed against us”.
She asked her colleagues: “Do we want to be part of a system that makes healthcare inaccessible to those in need and undermines the patient and doctor relationship? Do we want to be part of a system that feeds the inaccurate idea that migrants are a drain on the NHS? Do we want to be part of a system that complies with state sponsored discrimination?” No: “we’re docs, not cops”.
Ellie Rea, a medical student and member of #DocsNotCops comments that, after today’s EU referendum result, “this makes the vote and the work we’re doing all the more important”. There will now no doubt be moves by the government to extend the charges to EU migrants. Now many more people could be affected by these charges. Yesterday, the BMA voted to resist this.
At the same conference, a motion was passed to extend BMA opposition to cuts in bursaries for all healthcare students, and not just medical students.