Campaigners staged a protest against hospitals acting as “immigration checkpoints” and creating a “hostile environment” for patients.

Waltham Forest Save Our NHS (WFSON) is fiercely against Barts Health Trust’s new policy to ask patients about their immigration status before giving them any treatment, to determine whether or not they should have to pay for services.

They gathered outside the trust’s general meeting last night in protest.

A spokesman for WFSON said: “Save our NHS believes this hostile environment is damaging to individual patient’s health, to public health, to equality, and to the trust of our local communities in the NHS. Patient confidentiality is important.”

Barts trust uses a pre-attendance form, which WFSON claims the trust has handed to mothers in labour to fill in before treatment, to assess a patient’s entitlement to free treatment from the NHS.

The form says: “NHS hospital treatment is not free to all. All hospitals have a legal duty to establish if patients are entitled to free treatment. Please complete this form to help us with this duty.”

The form then asks for full passport details, employer contact details, visa details and travel insurance details.

The new policy is part of a government pilot scheme, that Barts Health Trust agreed to be a part of, to ensure those not entitled to free treatment from the NHS are prevented from costing the service extra money.

In response to a Freedom of Information request sent to Barts by WFSON, the trust admitted that it has not been monitoring the ethnicity of those asked to fill out the forms and doesn’t have any equalities statistics for the new policy.

Barts Trust is currently making up to 100 enquiries a week to the Home Office about the immigration status of individual patients.

The trust says it has “a legal duty to recover the costs from patients who are not entitled to NHS treatment” and “any patient not entitled to free care must be charged for treatment they receive unless an exemption applies.”

A spokesperson for Barts Health said: “We take pride in providing vital care to all our patients. Like all NHS trusts we have a responsibility to recover costs from those not eligible for free NHS care.

“Last year we were asked to take part in a national pilot in two departments to test if we could more easily assess eligibility and be able to explain the payment process to non-eligible patients earlier on in their care.

“We did not turn any patients away, and no patient visiting our hospitals had care delayed. These pilots have ended and we are now taking a range of steps, including designing new training for our staff, to make our practice consistent, clear and equitable across our hospitals.”