I was pleased to read in the Sunday press that you are working on the issue of access to free health services in the UK by visitors. I have raised this matter as have other MPs for some time, and think we need to ensure we are running a National Health Service, not a World Health Service.
The rule we want and thought we had is simple. Any UK citizen is entitled to free provision of both GP and hospital services. Any foreign visitor should have to pay, by holding insurance or having sufficient money to pay for treatments needed. Anyone involved in an accident or needing emergency treatment would of course be looked after without first querying their ability to pay, but for all non urgent treatments patients from 0verseas will be asked to provide insurance or a credit card or other means of payment before any consultation or treatment is offered.
British citizens do not wish to be asked each time they go to a GP or hospital to show their ID or other credentials. The hospitals and doctors wish to devote their time to offering medical advice and treatment, not to policing a fee system. The best way to do so this is to ensure our current NHS system works as intended.
Everyone going to see a hospital consultant or seeking non emergency treatment in a hospital should be referred by his or her GP. Anyone seeking GP help should go to the practice where they are registered. Thus the policing of payment should be ensured through checking that anyone wanting to see a GP first has to register with a GP practice. When you register with a GP you should show your birth certificate or passport or some other document which establishes your entitlement to free treatment. Otherwise if you are not a UK citizen you set up the payment system when you first register.
People attending accident and emergency, when able to answer sensible enquiries about their status, should have to tell the hospital the name and address of their registered GP. Those who are not UK citizens should be asked for payment in most cases, and visitors to the UK should be advised to hold health insurance. EU visitors would need their EU health card. The UK should not deny life saving emergency treatment for lack of the means to pay or lack of clarity over future payment.
People coming from the rest of the EU have use of the health card system. GP practices and hospitals must insist on proper recording of all EU card cases – who should not be able to register with a GP without establishing their health Card status, so the UK can receive the money back it is owed.