Resistance to reforms of the way the NHS treats foreign patients, in an attempt to end ‘health tourism’, shows Britain’s left sees it as an International Health Service – and they want to keep it that way.
New rules introduced to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) last week means hospitals will now be required to ask for proof of eligibility to gain access to non-emergency care. The NHS — a universal single-payer healthcare system funded by the British taxpayer — presently provides free at the point of access care to British residents and citizens of the European Economic Area.
Yet until now hospitals generally have not asked for proof of entitlement —with a National Audit Office report finding that 42 per cent of doctors and 55 per cent of nurses were not even aware that patients from abroad were to be charged at all — leading to concerns that the cash-strapped NHS was losing as much as £2 billion a year in giving free treatment to citizens of the world.
In extreme cases of healthcare tourism, British hospitals near airports were reporting large numbers of pregnant foreign women flying to the United Kingdom to have their children delivered on the NHS. Although these women were being presented with bills for the services rendered, they, in many cases, immediately flew home without paying.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 12, 2016
Just one hospital in the UK was £4.6 million out of pocket in one year after being taken advantage of by 900 health tourists, Breitbart London reported in 2016.
Halting this practice and charging foreign patients for their care when required is part of the government’s drive to fill the so-called black hole in NHS funding, yet the move has been slammed by left-wing health campaigners who want to see the British-funded NHS continue to treat the world.
Originally, all treatments would have been chargeable to non-entitled migrants and travellers, but after backlash from medical practitioners A&E treatment was exempted, as was all treatment for asylum seekers who can use the NHS for free regardless of where they or from.
Writing for left-wing blog and news site the Huffpost, British doctor Louise Tomkow slammed the new requirements preventing unlimited free healthcare being dispensed to anyone regardless of legal right to access, calling access to the NHS “a human right” to “everyone in our society”. Criticising the measures as “dangerous and immoral”, the geriatric medicine specialist said it was not the job of NHS staff to be “policing our borders” and that it would lead to “discrimination and racial profiling”.
Accompanying the article was Dr. Tomkow’s call to action for concerned NHS staff, suggesting joining a protest action, tweeting with the #patientsnotpassports hashtag, contacting members of parliament, and getting involved with organisations like DocsNotCops and Asylum Matters.
In refusing to check the eligibility of patients requesting free treatment from the NHS, Britain’s left admits the tax-funded service treats the world and should, in their opinion, continue to do so. It leads to the situation described by senior cancer specialist Professor Angus Dalgleish, who said in 2016 the NHS was being “bled dry” by health tourists coming to Britain to receive expensive cancer treatment.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 1, 2015
It is the exact problem raised by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage during the 2015 general election when he spoke of HIV health tourism when he said: “Here’s a fact… There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people who are HIV positive, which is not a good place for any of them to be, I know. But 60 per cent of them are not British nationals.
“You can come to Britain from anywhere in the world and get diagnosed with HIV and get the retroviral drugs that cost up to £25,000 per year per patient.
“I know there are some horrible things happening in many parts of the world, but what we need to is put the National Health Service there for British people and families who in many cases have paid into this system for decades.”
Although Mr. Farage’s comments were attacked at the time by left-wing politicians including then chancellor George Osborne, his policy of making sure the non-entitled pay their bills was subsequently adopted by the Conservative Party and is now being rolled out. A UKIP spokesman said then: “The establishment roundly condemned UKIP for our common sense plans on health tourism, but we know the public stand four-square behind Nigel Farage on his agenda-setting comments.”
Then as now, the public continue to support — and pay for — the NHS, as opposed to an International Health Service.