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UK changes in OT relationship could see some Bermudians get free NHS care

Britain will adopt a new approach to improve collaboration with the Overseas Territories, according to a statement yesterday from the Joint Ministerial Council.

The JMC – the highest political forum between the UK Government and Governments of the OTs – formally met in the UK last week to discuss a range of issues, with David Burt representing Bermuda.

In an official statement released yesterday afternoon, the JMC said it welcomed an announcement from the Foreign Secretary of a “new UK Government strategy” on the OTs.

“We look forward to collaborating in its development, setting the direction for a relationship firmly based on the principles of collaboration and mutual interest,” the statement said.

“The OTs further welcome that each government department will have an assigned Minister responsible for their department’s relationship with the Territories.

“These ministers will meet as a group chaired by the Minister for the Overseas Territories.”

The JMC also welcomed progress in implementing reforms to the National Health Service’s quota system, which will allow some access to medical care for several new territories including Bermuda.

The quota system – which allows the referral of a limited number of patients to the NHS for a treatment free of charge – had previously only been available in the Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, St Helena, British Virgin Islands and Montserrat.

“Territories also welcomed the commitment to regular reviews to ensure that the reforms meet individual territory needs including mental health support,” the statement said.

David Burt at the latest meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council in the UK (Photograph supplied)

It was also announced a technical working group will be established to consider beneficial ownership.

The JMC said the OTs and the UK would establish a working group to “share expertise on, and consider issues around, the implementation of publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership that contain the necessary safeguards to protect the right to privacy”.

The topic of beneficial ownership has long been debated, with Bermuda resisting efforts to make beneficial ownership registers public on the basis that authorities which can show reasonable cause to identify beneficial owners have always been able to do so.

However, the island said in 2020 that it would make ownership registers public in 2023, provided this was a global standard by then.

The situation was further complicated by a ruling by the European Court of Justice last year that found public registers infringed upon fundamental rights of privacy and personal data protection.

The statement, which listed 29 points under a variety of headings, added the OTs were disappointed by ongoing challenges facing students who seek visas to study in the UK.

“The OTs welcome the UK Government commitment to resolving the issue,” the statement said.

“While welcoming the access to tuition fee loans in England for OT students, the UK and the OTs acknowledge a concern that students from the OTs do not currently have access to maintenance loans.”

• For the full statement, see Related Media

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Published May 15, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 15, 2023 at 7:59 am)

UK changes in OT relationship could see some Bermudians get free NHS care

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