UNISON IS fighting cuts in public health provision which could mean exposing people in Britain to a sharp increase in diseases such as TB. The cuts follow from the implementation of European Union directives aimed at easing the free movement of labour.
Following these directives in 2002, the then government agreed to change the entry regulations into Britain from countries with major incidents of pulmonary TB (and other potential pandemic threats – H1N1, Ebola virus, SARS etc). This meant abandoning screening when people arrive in favour of “self-funding pre-entry certificates” from countries deemed at risk.
But the new rules have only just been implemented, and some 50 staff at Heathrow and Manchester are now at risk of redundancy from the cuts in pre-entry certification. They include radiographers, doctors, nurses and administration staff, all highly skilled and experienced. Unison, representing 95 per cent of those affected, is campaigning to reverse these potentially disastrous cuts in public health provision.
The EU’s strategy was to shift the onus of care from the entry countries to the countries of origin – irrespective of whether those countries of origin had the ability or medical capacity to provide such checks accurately or to a medical standard, as required in Britain. Now the government plans to withdraw all on-entry TB screening from Heathrow and Manchester Airport.
This decision has nothing to do with public health, as shown by the Home Office identifying that it has the “potential for savings”. In 2009–2010, 48,089 X-rays were performed on entry. Statistically TB cases in Britain are seeing a massive increase with rates among citizens not born in Britain 20 times as high as British-born citizens. There is substantial evidence that passengers are arriving from countries which require pre-entry certificates with falsified certificates, either supplied from non-medical practitioners or simply works of fiction.
There is also evidence of TB carriers arriving from EU countries that do not require the pre-entry certificates, for example Latvia and other East European states. Those who clamour that such checks are “racist” are putting the health of the population, irrespective of origin, at risk and intentionally or not encourage decisions made on the grounds of financial expediency, and even fraud. ■