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Monday, 10 December 2018

Windrush cancer patient loses High Court challenge against immigration policy

Written by Sian Harrison

A member of the Windrush Generation forced to pay for cancer treatment has lost a High Court challenge against a key part of the Government's "hostile environment" immigration policy.

The man, identified only as MP, is in his late fifties and suffers from a form of incurable blood cancer which had to be treated with repeated courses of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

He came to the UK from St Lucia with his family when he was 14 and has lived and worked in the UK for more than 40 years.

However, after being refused leave to remain in the UK he was charged thousands of pounds and at one point denied treatment because he could not pay upfront.

MP asked the High Court to quash regulations which require NHS bodies to secure payment from overseas visitors in advance of treatment, to record a patient's immigration status and to charge for some community services.

His lawyers said the regulations, introduced last year as part of a raft of amendments to existing rules, were a "significant contribution" to the hostile environment policy.

They argued at a hearing in July that the Government failed to consult on the policy changes and did not take enough account of its duty under equality legislation.

But, in a ruling on Monday, Mr Justice Lewis dismissed the case, saying there was "no obligation" to consult on the changes and the impact on equality matters had been considered.

He said that, while the Government's analysis of the changes concluded overseas visitors may be "adversely affected", this was considered to be a "proportionate way" of ensuring the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

The judge added: "The repeated assessment was that even though the proposals would, in different ways, affect particular groups with particular protected characteristics more, that was justified as the measures contributed in a proportionate way to a legitimate aim - namely the sustainability of the NHS.

"In the circumstances, therefore, I do not consider that the defendant failed to have due regard to the matters referred to in (the Equality Act)."

At the earlier hearing, the judge was told MP was refused leave to remain in the UK in 2015 - around the same time his life-threatening illness was diagnosed - after a decade of delay.

As a result, he was charged thousands of pounds and was even refused treatment on the basis he was unable to pay in advance.

His treatment resumed after his lawyers contacted the London hospital trust where he was a patient but, at the time of the High Court hearing, he was still being charged.

However, Mr Justice Lewis said MP will no longer have to pay after he won an appeal over his immigration status - following which the Home Office was expected to grant him leave to remain.

His legal team previously told the court MP did not keep any immigration paperwork and the Home Office "appears to have failed to keep any records" in relation to him.

They also said he had served time in prison for a number of serious offences.

Concern that members of the Windrush Generation, who came to the UK from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and early 1970s, were facing deportation and being denied access to healthcare due to paperwork issues and anomalies led to a scandal earlier this year.

The then-home secretary Amber Rudd resigned amid a backlash over her department's policy.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.