Dead cats in operating theatres: Why we’re talking about NHS charges for foreign visitors

[Image: Frances Roberts/Alamy].

Why on Earth would TV political shows (Victoria Derbyshire, Daily Politics) be discussing whether the NHS should charge foreign visitors for treatment, when the NHS already charges foreign visitors for treatment?

Is it perhaps a ‘dead cat’, thrown into operating theatres to distract us from something else that’s happening today – the committee-stage debate on the Article 50 Bill, perhaps, or Theresa May’s performance during Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit (she’ll grovel).

The simple fact is that we know health tourism takes place but the cost is one per cent of the total NHS budget – and the health service does take steps to recover the cash.

It was a major part of a BBC documentary last week.

That being said, I don’t see any harm in checks at border controls, to ensure that visitors have either valid health insurance or the financial means to pay for any medical treatment they may need.

But these checks would need to take place before people were admitted to the UK. NHS staff themselves should not be asked to perform such duties as they have far more important jobs to perform.

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5 thoughts on “Dead cats in operating theatres: Why we’re talking about NHS charges for foreign visitors

  1. Rusty

    It’s a trick they do all the time! Our news media has been a sham for a long time as your friend at the canary can testify! Some doctors have shown illnesses like type 2 diabetes and heart disease can be reversed by diet alone and hundreds if not thousands of studies back this up, yet it is ignored! I can give you the info if you want it! It’s free nothing is being sold only many live and the NHS budget could be saved.

  2. Dez

    Yes several countries already require proof of insurance cover. Corporate bodies have their own global travel arrangements, many are self insured fronted arrangements, so can usually cover most health issues their staff encounter. Unfortunately private travellers would not enjoy such open ended insurance arrangements where private travel insurers are a bit more picky about covering pre-existing conditions and have many clauses and issues that are not covered. Therefore hospitals will need to gen up on bits of insurance paper upon which they may not be able to depend their money owed will be forthcoming. I also understood we are also just as bad at getting our money back from our EU partners where UK have dealt with EU reciprocal health issues. Another one for the forthcoming negotiations….if they ever get off the runway.

  3. Florence

    I thought the NHS budget was £100 billion (in roubdcfigures) and that so-called heath tourism is about £350 million. That’s a lot less than 1%, its less than a rounding error.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Worse than that – I just checked. Between £110 and £280 million a year; perhaps as high as £300 million. So you are more correct in your conclusion than you thought!

  4. Barry Davies

    The trouble is that 1 % means that people who should be getting treatment are having to wait longer and some can’t get the treatment because the CCG’s have run out of money, it doesn’t sound much but for the people who are suffering because of it the figure doesn’t really matter if it’s 1% or 51%

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