The Health Secretary has hit out at immigration because he is worried his mixed race children will be discriminated against. Jeremy Hunt said health tourism risked creating “social divisions” that would see resentment against his half-Chinese family.
He claimed British hospitals lost at least £500m a year because the NHS was never repaid for treatment given to foreigners who were not entitled to it as a matter of right. Hunt said we had to do something about the National Health Service being treated as an “international health service”.
Mr Hunt told LBC radio: “My wife is Chinese and she obviously lives with me in London. My children are half Chinese and I do not want them to grow up in a country where people look at immigrants and say it’s difficult for me to access NHS services because of people like you.
“And that’s why it’s so important to have sensible, balanced, controlled immigration in this country. Because otherwise we’ll have social divisions, we’ll have tensions, which thankfully in this country we’ve avoided for many years unlike other countries.”
He said GPs had to stop issuing NHS numbers to “anyone who turned up” at their surgeries. Once a number is issued hospitals will treat a patient without checking their nationality because they are assumed to be entitled to the treatment they are receiving.
It is not uncommon for foreign nationals to deliberately enter the UK in order to get access to treatment that would be prohibitively expensive abroad. This means the taxpayer ends up picking up the bill for specialised medical treatment in cases such as cancer and HIV.
Mr Hunt added: “It is a National Health Service and not an International Health Service and we have to do something about this – we are doing something about this. We simply can’t afford to give everyone free medical care.”
The Health Secretary’s comments come at a time when immigration is particularly contentious. The government pledged to reduce the numbers coming to the UK, but have been almost powerless to do so as a result of EU treaties. They have been left to put limits of skilled workers from outside the EU, whilst still allowing unskilled labour to flood in from Eastern Europe.
The Prime Minister has publicly stated that he wants to limit EU migration by “redefining” the rules on free movement. However, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has said the right to free movement is a “fundamental principal” and cannot be changed. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel also claimed any attempt by Britain to limit EU migration would lead to the country leaving the EU altogether.