Think Tank: Opening NHS to Migrants Will Result in ‘Huge Inflow of Health Tourists’

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Nurses in the accident and emergency dept of Selly Oak Hospital work during a busy shift on March 16, 2010 in Birmingham, England. As the UK gears up for one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history it is expected that that …
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Migration Watch UK has warned that it would be “irresponsible” and “damaging” to stop charging foreigners to use the National Health Service as it would result in a “huge inflow of health tourists”.

On Tuesday, an overwhelming majority of delegates at the annual conference of the British Medical Association, a union which represents 155,000 doctors, called for the abolition of all charges by migrants to use the NHS, which would effectively turn the National Health Service into the International Health Service.

Currently, foreign visitors who are not EU citizens are expected to pay to use the British taxpayer-funded medical service, for all but non-urgent treatment. EU citizens can receive free treatment as long as they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The regulations were brought about in 2017, with hospitals being made responsible for charging foreign service users in order to stop “health tourism”, after a number of highly-publicised reports of foreigners racking up high medical bills — in once case in excess of half a million pounds — without paying.

According to the Daily Mail, doctors who opposed lifting the regulations that safeguard Britons’ and legal migrants’ use of the NHS were allegedly booed, whilst one doctor, Dr Omar Risk, claimed that “Charging migrants for accessing NHS services is a fundamentally racist endeavour – we are complicit in the oppressive regime.”

The BMA will begin pressuring the government to scrap the rules entirely, reports The Times.

Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, called the vote by one of the most powerful trade unions “an absurd, irresponsible and damaging decision”.

“The result is bound to be a huge inflow of health tourists — the year ending June 2018 saw nearly 15 million non-EU visitor arrivals to the UK, many of whom will have been from countries with much less advanced health systems. It would certainly add to pressures on the already overstretched NHS and diminish the service for those whose taxes fund it,” Lord Green said.

Health tourism is believed to cost British taxpayers between £200 million and £2 billion every year. However, Dr Jackie Appleby, who proposed the motion, calls the millions — and potentially billions — of annual lost healthcare funding “peanuts in the grand scheme of things”.

Dr Duried Syad Ali, who opposed the motion, warned that “Accepting this motion is sending the wrong message to the world, inviting everyone to free health care,” while Dr George Rae said: “The message coming from the BMA is… get on the plane, get on the boat because you will get treatment on the NHS for nothing.”

However, media reported in April that the British government had “all but abandoned” plans to tackle health tourism, in some instances after hospitals were pressured to shelve patient checks by far-left activists.

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