In the last Parliament I raised the issue of overseas visitors coming to the UK to get free treatment. Ministers told me they were taking action to stop any abuse of our system. This week the Daily Mail has revealed that a person could come to the UK from another EU country, register with a GP, then return to that other country and claim UK money for the costs of any treatment there. It is good that the government wishes to stop this theoretical possibility. I doubt much of that is happening, and the figures for how much the UK has to pay the countries mentioned implies this is not a big loss at the moment. It is part of a much wider set of questions.
In order to run a National Health Service rather than a free service for the world Ministers need to ensure the following happens:
1. No visitor from outside the EU to the UK can have free access to non emergency health care. Visitors should be advised to come with insurance, and told they will be billed for any treatment they need whilst they are here. Panorama ran a programme showing that there have been scams with visitors obtaining expensive operations whilst staying in the UK for non urgent conditions. GPs should decline to register temporary visitors as NHS patients and should see them privately and charge the consultation to the patient or the insurance company. NHS hospitals should not offer free treatment to anyone who is not registered with an NHS GP, other than emergencies. They too should bill any overseas visitor needing treatment.
2. No visitor or worker from the rest of the EU should receive free treatment on the NHS without the GP or hospital filling in a claim form for the costs to be recharged to the country of origin of the individual concerned. Other countries are better at sending the UK the bills for our citizens needing treatment abroad, than we have been acting the other way. There is an agreed system for recharges.
I am writing again to Ministers to see how much progress has been made with enforcing these commonsense rules over access to care free at the point of use.