New Clause 35 - Provision of NHS services to victims of modern slavery

Part of Modern Slavery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 14 October 2014.

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Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Liberal Democrat, Brent Central 4:45, 14 October 2014

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I will be as brief as I can. The new clause was tabled in the names of the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate and myself to probe issues around access to health care. Earlier, the Minister said health care workers are particularly important in carrying out front-line identification, but they can do that only if people access the health care system, if they are not afraid to access it and if they are not turned away, fairly or unfairly. There are exemptions from NHS charges for victims of trafficking, but they are in place only for people who are recognised as victims or potential victims by the national referral mechanism, and, following our earlier discussion, we know that an enormous number of people are not covered by that. As I said, health care workers are absolutely key in identifying victims.

Last year, I visited the Doctors of the World clinic in east London. It does a phenomenal amount of work with people who have no recourse to public funds, who have been turned away or who are afraid of accessing health care. It is clear that an enormous number of people are extremely vulnerable, many of whom staff at the clinic say have been trafficked, but they are not accessing the health care system. Some have been turned away, and some are just afraid. What they are really afraid of is that accessing the health care system will result in their being reported to the Home Office and deported. Will the Minister please say something about the work she is doing to ensure that provision is joined up and that any charges introduced in the NHS do not have the impact I have described?