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NHS Trust Halted Asylum Seeker’s Leukemia Treatment

January 22, 2019

“I think it’s horrible and inhuman to have a person who is sick like me dumped on to the street without food or shelter or medication,” says Esayas Welday. He is as confused as he is angry that it was an NHS trust, not a rogue landlord or uncaring staff of a benefits office, that forced him back into being homeless, and did so even though he was suffering from cancer.

The Eritrean asylum seeker was relieved when in May last year he began the first of five courses of chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a form of blood cancer he had just been diagnosed with at the unusually early age of 29. But then one day several weeks later, without warning, staff at Northwick Park hospital in west London told him he had to leave and that he would not receive any more treatment.

“They said they couldn’t continue to treat me because I couldn’t afford to pay the £33,000 bill for treatment they had given me. They decided that they didn’t care about my life, or my health and my illness, so they sent me back to the street. I thought they were killing me,” Welday recalls.

He was sent away with a jumble of medications for his cancer in a plastic bag. His protestations that he had no fridge to keep them in, because he was about to become homeless again, fell on deaf ears.

“I asked them where I was going to go. They said they didn’t know. I told them that meant I was going to go back to the street and that I was going to die and that I was now without hope.”

Northwick Park’s justification of its action illustrates the widespread ignorance and confusion among NHS trusts about how to apply regulations which the government forced them to adopt in October 2017 as part of its hostile environment approach to immigration. The rules compel trusts in England to charge refugees and asylum seekers upfront for many forms of hospital-based medical care, even though such patients are usually penniless and often destitute, like Welday. That regime – which many NHS staff say is unethical and dangerous – has led to hundreds of people missing out on care for sometimes life-threatening conditions such as cancer, arrhythmia and chest pains.

The trust claimed: “Mr Welday is not eligible for NHS treatment … he is homeless with refugee status.” That was untrue. He had not by that time acquired refugee status. Despite that, he still should have received NHS care because his treatment was “urgent or immediately necessary”. And if he had had refugee status, as the trust believed, then that too should have made him eligible for treatment. Either way, he should have completed his chemotherapy, not been discharged.

Ellen Fotheringham, Welday’s caseworker at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), says such lack of understanding by trusts is widespread and leads to patients wrongly being denied care. Welday was seriously traumatised by Northwick Park telling him to leave, she says.

“It’s a woeful reflection of the NHS charging regulations and the hostile environment as a whole that a human life was completely disregarded by the NHS, simply because he did not have the right papers, and worse, the decision to disregard his life did not even comply with the law,” Fotheringham says. The JCWI is one of six charities helping people affected by the hostile environment that will benefit from the Guardian and Observer’s Christmas appeal.

Welday was lucky, though. When the father of two became very ill again soon after his experience there, he ended up in the A&E unit at the Whittington hospital in north London. Staff there did know the rules and arranged for him to go back to Northwick Park and have the rest of the chemotherapy. He has had that and is now waiting to have a stem cell transplant next week, with a cousin acting as his donor, which he hopes will cure his leukaemia.

His situation has improved. The British Red Cross has found him temporary accommodation and the JCWI has helped him get leave to remain for two and a half years from the Home Office. But he remains bitter about starting potentially life-saving treatment only to have it then taken away.

“I’ve seen both the caring side of the NHS, like the staff at the Whittington, but also the uncaring staff, like the managers at Northwick Park who decided to dump me. I just want the rules to be applied properly so that other people don’t suffer the way I did,” he says.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Teresa Harris permalink
    January 22, 2019 1:45 am

    Not for free

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Annoyed disabled taxpayer permalink
    January 22, 2019 8:34 am

    So what’s the difference between this and health tourism?
    £33,000.00 How many other ops could be done with that cash and once he’s finished treatment what then at what cost to we the British tax payer??

  3. January 22, 2019 12:20 pm

    Reblogged this on michaelsnaith.

  4. January 22, 2019 9:04 pm

    Racist scum.

    Misconduct in Public Office –

    Criminal Attempts Act 1981 –

    Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter –

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