Proposals to limit NHS services to migrants could mean undiagnosed cases of HIV increase and live are endangered, according to a coalition of charities.
The Immigration Bill, which passed its second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, will extend charges to primary care services for some migrants, including to see a family doctor.
The National AIDS Trust has joined with other health, migrant and children’s organisations to condemn the bill, saying that it will have “disastrous consequences”.
They believe the cost will place a barrier to accessing a GP, meaning undiagnosed cases of HIV and other infections could increase as migrants cannot access healthcare.
But the Home Secretary Teresa May said that the bill would “clamp down on the those who live in the UK illegally and take advantage of our services”.
She added: “That’s not fair to the British public and it’s not fair to the legitimate migrants who contribute to our society and our economy.”
The charities, which include Doctors of the World, Freedom from Torture, Maternity Action, Medact, Migrant Rights Network, Still Human Still Here and Terrence Higgins Trust, are urging MPs to scrutinise all of the proposals on regulating access to the NHS when it goes forward to a Public Bill Committee.
Deborah Jack, the Chief Executive of NAT, said: “These proposals will endanger not only the lives of people in migrant communities but will affect the health of the UK as a whole.
“Any plan to prevent thousands of people living here from accessing GPs would be counter-productive, bureaucratic, harming our health and adding more, unnecessary costs to an already stretched NHS.”
The Labour party decided not to oppose the bill during the second reading, which deals with its main principles, with the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper saying they would use the committee stage to improve it.
She said: “We can amend and reform it and use this opportunity to introduce better, fairer controls to deal with this government’s failures and make immigration work for all.”
The other plans in the bill include powers to check driving licence applicants’ immigration status, cutting the number of deportation decisions that can be appealed, and clamping down on people who try to gain an immigration advantage by entering into a “sham” marriage or civil partnership.