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NHS for all, 2 January 2014

Rachael Maskell, Health sector national officerBy Rachael Maskell, head of Health

As the nations continue to reflect on the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the UK government have decided to introduce segregation into our NHS. Britain once dubbed the second home of the ANC for the leadership shown in fighting division, has now placed division at the heart of its NHS, not on the basis of medical need, but on where you have come from, and therefore race.

Unite members passed explicitly clear policy to resist charges for non-EU migrant populations in the NHS, as their ethic rises above those in Westminster making these decisions. Members determined that all should be treated according to medical need. Evidence shows that where charges are introduced, people are deterred from seeking medical help, and the consequences can be fatal, literally.

Over Christmas the RCM reported on how maternity charges are leading to mums not seeking antenatal support and giving birth outside the NHS, and how this is leading to complications. Evidence from another European country has shown that infant mortality has doubled since charges have been introduced to the health system.

NHS workers must continue to work to their professional codes of conduct, and a similar ethic for those not registered, to ensure that all receive the help they need. Acting as boarder control police is no part of a health workers role, and all should ignore the divisive policies that this government are seeking to introduce.

But all this shows is ignorance; ignorance of the history of segregation and the rise of the far right and ignorance on the impact on health. Public health will only protect a generation if it is available to all. Whether TB, HIV, pneumonia or the common flu, if people do not have access to appropriate preventative measures, then we are all put at risk.

Unite is clear – we will not tolerate segregation in our NHS, and will fight any government who seek to impose division in health.