NHS Part 6 – Hello Discrimination, Fancy Seeing You Here.

The last appointment with the midwives that serve the area where we used to live went by without a hitch. It was a fast, clean-cut, job that had me in and out in about 20 minutes – including the time I was waiting because I was early.

All that is well and good, but apparently there’s some spin-doctoring going on over the hows and whys of some supposed “recent changes,” as part of the registration process. What kind of changes? Let’s put it this way: when I first registered at a GP, I filled out a form online the day before, went in and signed it, was given an envelope full of information to read and fill out and then sent on my marry little way. Simple.

Today, however, is a completely different story. My impression is that it isn’t system-wide yet, though the receptionist implied otherwise so it’s best not to take chances (but then again, they did blame immigrants for the changes… twice… which I will explain is complete horse-hocky in a minute). Either way, changes either have come or are coming, and they’re being spun in a most xenophobic manner.

“Are you going to tell us what the changes are or what?” Okay, so I prattled on a bit, bear with me – I’m still seething here. The new changes are the additional requirement to present name identification as well as address identification. I have taken the liberty to provide pictures of the list:

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.59.26

These are the only forms of documentation that they would accept. Note that, while we’re living with my in-laws, I do not actually have any of the forms of address verification in either of our names. Moreover, it specifically excludes the one alternative form of mail that migrants like myself might have – i.e. bank statements.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.59.08

Another precious thing to note is that, if you are born outside of the UK, they will only accept your passport. Meaning all migrants who do not have their passports are basically refused service because it is impossible for them to register. Moreover, having a passport does not convey legal status to reside in the UK, one would need a Visa or a BRP – neither of which is required to be shown as identification.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 16.59.43

 

Now, see, when I explained that I did not have the documentation to verify my address, the receptionist called to the back of the office to see what else could be provided. It was suggested that a cellphone bill would be acceptable, but as we use pre-paid phones that isn’t an option for us either (and likely a significant number of other migrants).

So what was the reasoning behind these changes? The receptionist was so kind to inform me it was “because so many immigrants are coming in.” Excuse me? Okay, first of all your pitiable name/address verification thing does not prove in any way, shape or form, someone’s immigration status. All you’re doing is intentionally making things difficult for minorities and, last I checked, we have a word for that: it’s called “discrimination.”

After much deliberation, the receptionist agreed to accept a letter from the UK government in my name as a form of address verification. Note: that option isn’t on the list. Meaning it is very likely that it is a case-by-case basis that people are deciding and there is a strong chance that migrants are not being allowed to register at a GP simply because they do not have address verification.

I’m not impressed and google-ing the matter has not yielded when and where the change was made, though I suspect it may have been snuck through on the most recent Immigration law changes. Despite supposed assurances that people would not be refused service based on their immigration status, they’ve found ways to exclude portions of the population.

What’s more, is it isn’t just immigrants that are affected: those who are homeless are also likely to be refused – doubly so, since that is a minority group that is more likely to not have personal identification. To say nothing about having anything to prove where they live.

With very little effort, they have effectively created a second-class citizens. The reasons for doing so do not jive with the methods used to determine those who could be considered not eligible for the service. Worse, they blame that same group of people (migrants) for the need in the first place.

Had my sister-in-law not been standing there with me at the time, she wouldn’t have believed it herself. In her words, “They’re just ignorant people, don’t take it personally.”

I’m not taking it personally. I’m taking it as an affront to human decency. People are going to be denied service because of this, people who have every right to use the NHS will be denied access. All for the sake of supposedly trying to weed out migrants who do not meet the requirements – something that they will fail to do because they are not requesting the appropriate documentation in the first place. Furthermore, their actions will serve only to enflame the hate that minorities already face. There isn’t a definition generous enough for the word “okay” that would make this scenario acceptable.

All that out of my system, the first actual visit with the Midwife at the new clinic was pleasant enough. Perhaps a little bit longer than usual because they needed to go over the notes on my pregnancy thus far and, of course, there was a small question-and-answer session that generally comes with those who are expecting.

Interestingly enough, I thought I would need to schedule my next appointment with the receptionist as I had with all of my other appointments in the past. This time, the Midwife did the scheduling right in the room. Meaning, once I left the room, I could just walk out of the clinic and get on with life. Pretty slick, though I wonder why, if it is that simple, no one at my old clinic did it before? More than likely, this is one of those things where the finer details and functionalities of each location can still differ, despite working under the same umbrella of rules and standards.

Expect the next instalment to come in the next couple of weeks. Appointments are coming more frequently as my estimated due date approaches, plus there is the added joy of Antenatal classes coming up.

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