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Why the government should clamp down on health tourism

13 October 2012

1:39 PM

13 October 2012

1:39 PM

One of the problems with the welfare state is that the contributory principle too often gets lost. People’s faith in the whole system is undermined when they see those who haven’t put it, or even tried to, taking out.

A classic example of this is ‘health tourists’, those who come here from abroad with the deliberate aim of taking advantage of the medical care offered by the NHS. Too little is being done to address this problem. The Daily Mail reports today that ‘New guidelines tell doctors across England they must register any foreign patient who asks for care otherwise it would be ‘discriminatory’.’ The problem with this is that it will make it much easier for those seeking treatment for either non-urgent or chronic conditions to access the full range of NHS care.

There are those who’ll claim that the sums of money involved in all this are relatively small in comparison to the whole health budget. But as Chris Skidmore, the smart new Tory MP who has been leading a campaign on this issue, says, ‘This is not just about the money, vital though that is – we cannot have the NHS, paid for by taxpayers, being abused by people who pay nothing into the system and who are not eligible for free care.’ If the Tories want to be the party of the NHS, then they must be prepared to tackle this problem.

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