Cllr Chris Kennedy, cabinet member for health, adult social care and leisure. Photograph: Hackney Council

Cllr Chris Kennedy, cabinet member for health, adult social care and leisure, responds to an open letter from local trade unions and health organisations about free NHS treatment for migrants during the coronavirus crisis:

We agree with the requests for Hackney Council in the open letter, and support the letter’s message to do everything within our collective power to help mitigate the disproportionate health impacts on disadvantaged communities caused by coronavirus. 

We have been working to take action on these requests, such as including health access information for migrants in council communications such as Hackney Today and our social media channels. It’s important for all non-UK nationals to know that there are no charges for Covid-19 NHS diagnosis or treatment. This applies to everyone, including anyone living in the UK without permission, and no immigration checks are required for overseas visitors undergoing testing or treatment for Covid-19, which is the same for many other infectious diseases.  

As is mentioned in the letter, a big part of some people not accessing the NHS quickly during the pandemic is the effect of health charges. We have had conversations with Meg Hillier, Hackney South and Shoreditch MP and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, around unfair NHS charging for migrants locally. She has highlighted these issues in Parliament, with evidence from the Public Accounts Committee finding that the government is not using an existing, established recharge system to repay the British taxpayer for NHS costs – but has set up a separate system which penalises many tax-paying residents just because they are not British. No migrant worker should be expected to pay twice for their healthcare or their family’s – once through their taxes and once through this unjust surcharge.

Alongside highlighting health inequalities in Hackney’s vulnerable and marginalised communities, this global pandemic has shown the importance of local public health structures in tackling them for the benefit of our society as a whole. In response, we have started community conversations with the Hackney Council for Voluntary Services to address this, and are working together with our local voluntary sector to ensure people from all backgrounds are accessing testing and treatment for coronavirus.

Cllr Chris Kennedy, cabinet member for health, adult social care and leisure

If you have symptoms of coronavirus please call 119 to order a test or visit the NHS website. You can also call the NHS on 111 if you would like to discuss a medical concern you may have – this service also has access to translators if needed.

In a medical emergency always call 999. 

Visit the local coronavirus support pages for more information on what help is available in Hackney.

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