My research examines the extension of UK borders and immigration policing into the National Health Service (NHS). In a post-9/11 age of data-driven security, and in the context of the ‘hostile environment’, recent years have seen the UK incorporate immigration inspections and bureaucratic acts of border policing into a range of banal (typically institutional) spaces, including NHS hospitals and surgeries. This has included the introduction of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) (2015), upfront charging for overseas visitors (2017) and various policies which permit the Home Office to use NHS data for immigration-related purposes (2011; 2017). However, whilst several scholars have considered the uneasy coupling of care and control and acknowledged the enrolment of hospitals and surgeries in bordering, none have examined the specific roles healthcare institutions have come to play in UK migration policy.
In this context, my research examines how data sharing, upfront charging and the IHS function as border controls and how the ethical tensions of this are generating new political alliances and forms of civic action. Employing a qualitative multi-method approach, it will draw on the experiences of multiple groups on the frontline to understand how UK border policing is being extended into regimes of healthcare. Conducted amidst precipitous policy changes and a major post-Brexit shift in the healthcare entitlements of EU migrants, this research is both novel and exceptionally timely, allowing it to contribute to NHS and public policy making, as well as interdisciplinary research on borders, immigration and healthcare.
This project stems from my longstanding research interests in the fields of political and health geography. It follows on from my undergraduate dissertation research into the enactment and contestation of borders in the NHS, which was nominated for the Royal Geographical Society’s Alfred Steers Dissertation Prize in 2019.