Health Tourism is a small but significant part of the problem with the NHS. The Colaition are presently consulting on proposals to legislate and change the administrative arrangements governing the rights of visitors, recently arrived people and illegal migrants to health care on the NHS.
The government believes that there should still be an entitlement to free emergency care if a visitor, recent migrant or an illegal migrant is caught in a bad accident or develops a serious condition that needs rapid treatment. The issue to be settled are what entitlement if any do these categories of people have to the rest of NHS care, after they have received their emerrgency treatment.
If someone comes to work or stay here for a longer time period on a legal visa they currently can register with a GP for free primary care. If a visitor needs GP care during a shorter visit they too can currently onbtain free care from a GP. A visitor is not meant to receive free hospital treatment for anything other than an emergency whilst staying here. They can obtain health insurance or pay cash for any treatment they do want in a UK hospital, or wait until they return home.
The government has suggested charging other new arrivals £200 as an initial payment or contribution to NHS costs, to be followed by a continuation of current practice of free treatment thereafter.
Is this a sufficient levy and a fair approach, covering people like students and short term workers coming to the UK with a visa? Should temporary residents qualify for free GP care? Should hospitals have to take more care over charging people from overseas receiving treatment? How far should we go to ensure that we are running a National Health Service, rather than a World Health Service?
My colleague and good friend Philip Lee is both a GP and a 2010 new MP like me. He raised the following Q and A at a recent Prime Ministers Questions:
Phillip Lee (Bracknell, Conservative)
As a doctor who once had to listen incredulously to a patient explain, via a translator, that she only discovered she was nine months’ pregnant on arrival at terminal 3 at Heathrow, I was pleased to hear the statement from the Secretary of State for Health today on health tourism. Does the Prime Minister agree that although the savings are modest, the principle matters? The health service should be national, not international.
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 3 July 2013, c919)
David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. This is a national health service, not an international health service. British families pay about £5,000 a year in taxes for our NHS. It is right to ensure that those people who do not have a right to use our NHS are properly charged for it.