Remember clapping on Thursday evenings? We all felt good saying “thank you” to those who work in our health and social care systems. So why aren’t we prepared to give them the same level of care as they have given us? I have recently become aware of the plight of EU 27 citizens who have been looking after our elderly residents during the Covid-19 crisis. I know several Polish and Romanian women who have faithfully gone on working in local care homes during the pandemic, but now, as the homes have lost so many residents to Covid-19, they’re under pressure to take their annual leave. Of course British staff are under the same pressure, but at least if they decide to take the annual leave now they can use it to spend time with their families. Polish and Romanian staff can’t fly home right now: the borders are closed, and even if they could go home, on return they would have to quarantine.
But EU 27 nationals have another, more life-threatening concern. The Brexit transition period ends on December 31st. After that, what happens if they themselves get sick? Do they automatically qualify for NHS treatment? No. Many haven’t been here long enough to qualify for Settled Status, or even have Pre-settled Status, and even if they have, their entitlement to health care is not crystal clear.
Elena has worked long hours in a care home since she came to the UK with her family two years ago. She writes: “Here is not an easy life for a foreigner family because of the Brexit brought more confusion and suspicions. We choose this country knowing that the rights of humans are a priority here for everyone no matter the difference.” That isn’t true any more.
I spoke to Marco (not his real name), who has been here for thirty years, works in medical research, and has Settled Status. He explained: “I call it Unsettled Status, because the Home Office doesn’t issue any card or documentation. If I get taken into hospital, I’ll have to get out my phone, access the Home Office website, and get them to send an email confirming that I am entitled to NHS treatment.”
This is clearly a ludicrous state of affairs, and one that could easily be resolved. EU citizens who have been here working and paying NI ought to be automatically entitled to retain their right to NHS care, and it would be a simple matter for the Home Office to issue them with a card confirming this. I’m writing to our MP to say so: please join me. Her email is: email@example.com