School nurses and health visitors could be forced to turn away migrant children under new NHS charging rules, charities have warned.
The new regulations mean NHS professionals working in the community will be forced to charge patients up front if they are not entitled to free NHS treatment. Those who cannot pay and are not in urgent need of care will be turned away.
This could include services provided by school nurses, health visitors and community mental health teams.
The campaign group Docs Not Cops said that the rules risk alienating and isolating children.
"School nurses are a first point of contact for so many children and not only provide healthcare advice but are also a confidante and friend for children who need them," a nurse from the group said.
"This policy will further alienate and isolate children who are already regularly racially profiled by healthcare services and the police. It's devastating to see healthcare workers being turned into symbols of fear when they should be symbols of safety."
Foreign nationals who are not entitled to free healthcare already face charges when being treated in hospital. From October, those charges will be extended to NHS community services and will have to be paid in full before treatment is given. Non-NHS healthcare providers who receive NHS funding will also have to follow the rules.
The refugee and migrant group Migrants Organise told Politics.co.uk today that they are "deeply troubled" by the policy.
"We are deeply troubled and concerned not only about the impact on children and their parents but also on the nurses and teachers being turned into border guards," CEO Zrinka Bralo said.
"This will ruin trust when it is most needed and when children are at their most vulnerable."
Briefings from Doctors of the World, Asylum Matters and the National AIDS Trust call for the regulations to be withdrawn and for the government to carry out assessments of the impact of extending charges.
Services provided by GP practices, family planning clinics and A&E departments are all exempt from the rules, as is the treatment of physical or mental conditions caused by torture, female genital mutilation and domestic or sexual violence.
When contacted by Politics.co.uk, the Department of Health confirmed that school nurses and health visitors would not be exempt.