EXCLUSIVE: Health chiefs advertise £12MILLION contract to give detained immigrants access to GP and dental treatment – as crisis-hit NHS creaks under pressure
- Contract means an estimated £20,000 will be spent on detainee health per year
- Read more: Strike hell for NHS: More than 11,000 ambulance workers walk out
Up to £12million could be spent to ensure detained immigrants continue getting free dental care and GP appointments at one detainee centre.
MailOnline can reveal that NHS bosses need new providers to take over the 24-hour services at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in County Durham.
Campaigners claimed the sum would be difficult for taxpayers to swallow given the dire appointment crisis plaguing Brits wanting to see their GP or dentist.
Derwentside IRC is now the UK’s only women-only facility, replacing the scandal hit Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire following several controversies, including accusations of sexual abuse by staff.
It holds female detainees while officials process their asylum claim to stay in Britain — as well as foreign offenders waiting to be deported from the UK.
NHS officials are planning to spend up to £12million on providing primary care and dental for the detainees at Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre
Derwentside in County Durham is one of seven IRCs in the UK and has capacity for more than 80 people
It is likely to hold Iranian, Albanian or Iraqi nationals, the three largest nationalities being held in the seven IRCs across the country.
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Women staying at Derwentside IRC have access to televisions, pool tables, a well-stocked DVD library, with games of bowls and rounders organised at the weekend.
Detainees have had primary care and dental services at the IRC since it opened in 2021 in a bespoke new health centre described as ‘exceptional’ by prison inspectors.
This included a dedicated GP service every Tuesday and Thursday, with detainees only waiting a week for an NHS dental appointment.
The NHS is seeking a new provider for the service as the current contract is expiring.
Derwentside IRC’s new service will run from October this year until 2030 — at a cost of about £20,000 per detainee each year to the taxpayer.
The bulk of the cash will be spent on providing primary care services.
Campaigners protested against the centre before it was opened in November 2021. At the time they branded detention ‘inhumane’ and said ‘seeking sanctuary is not a crime’
A growing population and shrinking workforce mean the staffing crisis has worsened in all but one of the 106 health districts in England
Finances for the deal are controlled by NHS England’s North East and Yorkshire sub-region.
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Retired roofer, Alex Gray, from Lincolnshire, told BBC News that he had been forced to pull out six of his teeth on his own, after failing to find an NHS dentist
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This costly contract will stick in the craw of taxpayers.
‘Detainees understandably need basic healthcare provisions, but these huge sums are hard to justify while Brits are stuck on waiting lists.
‘Health bosses must ensure that they’re getting the best value for money for frontline care.’
A report into the Derwentside IRC by official prison inspectors reported that only 25 women were held there in October — despite it having the capacity to house more than 80.
Around eight in 10 people detained at such locations are held for less than 30 days, data suggests.
This means, in theory, there is nothing to stop a detainee receiving taxpayer-funded treatment only to then be deported from Britain.
While foreign nationals are usually charged a fee to use the NHS, this doesn’t apply to people detained in IRCs.
If people are later granted asylum they can also be exempt from paying NHS fees under a similar scheme as Britons on low incomes.
A spokesperson for NHS England North East and Yorkshire said: ‘The NHS is legally required to provide care at this site.
‘A procurement process covering the next seven years is currently running as the existing contract expires later this year.’
The Migration Observatory, an Oxford University-backed project tracking immigration data in the UK, reported there were 75 women being held in Government detention facilities as of June 2022.
The latest available data shows that in terms of nationality, the majority of people being held in immigration detention in 2021 were Iranian (4,667).
This was followed by Albanian (3,708), and Iraqi (2,919).
It comes amid a huge GP and dental appointment crisis in Britain.
Patients have frequently complained about failing in their quest to secure a consultation with their family doctor in scenes compared to the scramble for Glastonbury tickets.
GPs leaving the profession in droves or retiring in their 50s due to burnout or wanting a better work-life balance is partly fuelling the crisis.
At the same time, population is getting bigger – meaning more Britons must compete with a smaller pool of family doctors for appointments.
Britons looking for NHS dentistry face similar challenges.
The number of dental practices taking on new NHS patients has plummeted, with dentists saying funding arrangements mean it’s unaffordable to carry out these treatments.
A lack of NHS dental services has been blamed for some Britons forgoing dental treatment altogether, unable to afford to go private, or even resorting to DIY dentistry using household tools.
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