BBC Panorama does a great service with its programme on health tourism

Tonight’s Panorama was an excellent expose of “soft touch Britain” which we have talked about on this site. They developed work by MPs like Chris Skidmore and Henry Smith who have exposed some of the detail of the ways the NHS is now no longer the National HS but the International HS, offering free services to people from all round the world. It was a good example of how the BBC standing up for taxpayers can make a great programme which is most useful – it’s just a pity they stand up for taxpayers so infrequently.

The programme showed how anyone can register for free treatment with a GP; how illegals and fictitious people could register and obtain potential access to hospital treatment where they are meant to pay; demonstrated that the Uk issues cards to false applicants for European health Insurance where UK taxpayers have to pay for treatments using them; fails to collect much money from European governments for all the reciprocal treatments we supply here; and how the UK has a bad deal with the Republic of Ireland over treatment for retired people.

Anna Soubry, the Health Minister, just kept saying to each scandal that they were reviewing the situation. We offered the Health Department a 10 minute rule Bill recently, thanks to Henry Smith MP, which would have helped plug the gap. They declined to adopt it. The Minister had no explanation of why recent guidance has said GPs should offer free registration to anyone who asks, and no answer to hospitals who rely on the fact of GP registration to act as a passport for hospital treatment to which the people are not entitled.

Whe Parliament is back MPs will be pursuing this matter again. We are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds of loss to the NHS in these various ways. Ms Soubry needs to raise her game, and show some urgency and some sympathy for long suffering taxpayers who foot the bill for this injustice. I did talk to her privately when she was first appointed and said to her this was the number one concern of many about the finances of the NHS.


  1. Old Albion
    October 3, 2012

    Just one point John. There is no longer an NHS. There are four NHS, Scotland’s, Wales’ and N.Ireland, all controlled by their own Parliament/Assembly.
    Then there is the English NHS, supposedly controlled by the UK Parliament. It is of course England’s NHS that bears the brunt of the abuse.

  2. Merlin
    October 3, 2012

    This just once again shows that governments should not be allowed to run anything, and that nationalisation has been and always will be a total failure. Health should be a privatised health insurance system based on individual payments and if the individual,s money is not used put into an investment fund for that individual. 80 per cent of illnesses are experienced by 20 per cent of the population. The NHS is a complete waste of public money.

    1. Credible
      October 4, 2012

      Just out of interest, what do you do if you can’t afford the insurance – die?

      1. James Sutherland
        October 6, 2012

        You die of course, just like we’d all starve to death without our National Food Service providing free food to all who ask, not to mention the National Clothes Service…

        There’s a world of difference between making sure the poorest can access an essential service, and a government bureaucracy insisting on delivering it to all directly.

    2. uanime5
      October 4, 2012

      They tried you idea in the USA and it failed spectacularly because the poor and those with pre-existing conditions couldn’t afford or get any health insurance.

  3. JimF
    October 3, 2012

    You mean there are people out there who actually travel here to be treated by the NHS?

  4. marilyn mark
    October 3, 2012

    Anna Soubry’s performance was pathetic. ‘How did she get the job of Junior Minister? Too “complex” to make proper checks.It’s essential and no, I would not be offended if asked to prove my entitlement.

    1. Brian Tomkinson
      October 4, 2012

      marilyn mark,
      I agree. Her complacent performance was an object lesson in why this country is such a mess, why government is so incompetent and why we can expect nothing but a continuing decline.

    2. Disaffected
      October 4, 2012

      Her atitude is symptomatic of todays politicians, they want the kudos and money but the responsibility. Like Greening they do not have a clue of what is actually being done in their own department. Clueless. The same with Labour and the £12 billon computer cock-up in the NHS. This is our money.

    3. David John Wilson
      October 4, 2012

      I totally agree that her performance was pathetic. Amongst the numerous different issues that were presented to her there should have been at least one that could be actioned immediately without waiting for a review that might be completed in a years time.
      There are obvioous actions that the worst performing health trusts without waiting for the results of any review. These will save them hundreds of thousands of pounds in the next year.

  5. Monty
    October 3, 2012

    I have this suspicion that any attempt by government to restrict treatment to those who are entitled to it, is tending to crash into the teeth of opposition of the medical profession themselves. I have read indications of this from independent sources. If so, the medical profession needs to have its ears pinned back.

    1. uanime5
      October 4, 2012

      What’s the problem with people who are entitled to medical treatment getting medical treatment?

      1. APL
        October 6, 2012

        Monty: “any attempt by government to restrict treatment to those who are entitled to it, ”

        uanime5 : ” people who are entitled to medical treatment getting medical treatment?”

        Uanime5 sowing the seeds of a future argument on the basis of false attribution. Good tried and tested lefty tactic.

  6. Martyn
    October 3, 2012

    “When Parliament is back MPs will be pursuing this matter again. We are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds of loss to the NHS in these various ways”.

    More strength to your and like-minded MP colleagues, John. Go for it, make the blasted Government listen and get it to DO SOMETHING about this utter waste of money by people taking advantage of our crack-brained systems….

  7. Electro-Kevin
    October 3, 2012

    I couldn’t bring myself to watch it and there’s nothing the BBC won’t tell me that I – and 40 million other Brits – don’t know already anyway.

    “When Parliament is back MPs will be pursuing this matter again. We are talking about hundreds of millions of pounds of loss to the NHS in these various ways.”

    Is this issue really news in Parliament then ? A few years back we even had a politician describing it as “A bit like us going to Disney.”


    Nothing will be done.

    The country will go broke and the sooner the better as far as I’m concerned. Then at least there won’t be any money left to be pilfered and there will still be enough decent people here to rebuild from what remains.

    That’s about the best outcome we can expect.

    If you listened to us 10 – 20 years ago this would not have been happening. It has been written about and spoken about for decades. Where do you think ‘Soft touch Britain came from ?’ It’s been with us for decades.

    Why wait for a TV programme to make Parliament deal with it ? Will they do so for effect ? To keep the ‘plebs’ happy ?

    Please don’t bother.

    This country is well and truly f*%@$d. Why bother pretending otherwise anymore ?

    Reply: We did propose a Bill to highlight this and give governemnt any powers they might feel they lack to impose charges. I will return to the issue with Ministers, and raise it next week at the public spendign session at conference where In have been asked to join the platform debate.

    1. zorro
      October 4, 2012

      Please do John, and wake them from complacency. The true figure of fraudulent abuse will be difficult to calculate and certainly underestimated…..It is a national scandal, and that programme didn’t tell the half of it. The NHS trusts are supposed to have overseas fraud officers to detect abuse. People are supposed to give their NHS number but they are not asked for it. Abuse of maternity services by foreign visitor mothers is an ongoing issue…..


    2. Electro-Kevin
      October 4, 2012

      Thank you. Yes please do, Mr Redwood.

      It’s truly exasperating as you can doubtless tell.

    3. Glenn Vaughan
      October 4, 2012


      Are you speaking in any of the debates in the conference hall next week? If so then please give us your timing schedule. Fringe meetings won’t be televised to my knowledge.

    4. alan jutson
      October 6, 2012


      Yes, Ministers always seem to be about 10-20 years behind the general public on most matters.

      You really do wonder if they walk around with their eyes and ears closed most of the time.

  8. StevenL
    October 3, 2012

    In some part of the UK, the allocation of valuable public goods and services (particularly expensive housing and hospital treatment) seems to have been handed over to organised foreign fraud gangs really doesn’t it?

    1. Bob
      October 6, 2012


      They usually muscle in when the government is handing out freebies.

      I remember when the Blair government was funding free IT courses and up sprang a bunch of “IT training centres” run by foreign immigrants. The funds were rapidly exhausted and then the “training centres” and the scheme closed.

      In the case of the NHS however, it’s an ongoing scheme, so much more lucrative.

  9. Lindsay McDougall
    October 4, 2012

    I trust that the Health Minister (not to mention the Secretary of State) will have reviewed these matters when questions are asked in Parliament. We have to make a start somewhere and I would suggest that ensuring all reciprocal arrangements with European governments and populations are working as intended, without fraud, is the best place to start.

    Of course, we could end the NHS system where medicine is, to an order of approximation, free at the point of consumption. However, the earliest that we could get a mandate for that is 2020, which is too long to wait for action.

    By the way, talking of the Republic of Ireland, the fact that we can vote in each other’s elections has clearly boosted the Republican vote in Northern Ireland. Perhaps it is time to end this reciprocal arrangement.

    1. Bob
      October 6, 2012

      @Lindsay McDougall

      Yes, the ROI situation does seem to be rather one way traffic.

      I doubt anyone in the present Liberal led coalition would ever try to challenge it.

  10. Mike Stallard
    October 4, 2012

    Thank you for a couple of excellent articles.
    You are almost alone in explaining why silly politics is now default.

  11. Sue
    October 4, 2012

    I’ve lost count of the amount of times the MSM has brought this up. That any UK Government can let this continue is an absolute disgrace. This is NOT YOUR MONEY, there is no such thing as “government money”, it’s ours, the taxpayers!

    How difficult is it to set a few rules for health employees to follow? Why haven’t you made a deal with with other countries to pay for their citizens’ health bills? You really don’t have too many decisions to make these days having passed most of OUR sovereignty to foreigners, you’d think you could sort this one out!

    1. Steven Whitfield
      October 4, 2012

      It’s easy enough to set the rules to stop this..but the ruling elite see it as yet another opportunity to rub the noses of the ordinary people in diversity. I can’t think of another example of a policy that is so out of step with public opinion.

      Nobody so far has mentioned the human cost – how many lives could have been saved, or suffering averted, if those on waiting lists had not had there treatment delayed by health tourists ?.

      From the haughty response of the government minister, it was obvious she has no idea of the level of resentment around the issue. It’s carry on New Labour on all fronts.

      1. Iain Gill
        October 4, 2012

        i can think of other policies what are out of step with public opinion, 1 uncapped mass issue of ICT work visas 2 mass conversion of work visas to indefinite leave to remain 3 unrestricted right to work to any spouse of work visa holder 4 housing allocation 5 school place allocation

        state running and allocating resources doesnt work and corruption in modern day uk is common place

        1. sm
          October 5, 2012

          Again this is an indirect subsidy ‘overseas aid’.
          Again its our open to all attitude that will cause its own collapse.

          It also helps to keep labour costs for business down.

          Why is it that companies are allowed to bring in labour from overseas and not pay for all the associated sponsor costs upfront with cash. We might then see a rebirth of apprenticeships, where skills can pay a living wage.

  12. lifelogic
    October 4, 2012

    If we have free movement of people in the EU (and indeed almost free from other regions in practice), free education, a benefit system and free health care one cannot be too surprised if people who are sick take advantage of the system. Word get around rather quickly, if I were sick and poor, I probably would too. At the moment the only deterrent is the rationing and delays at the second rate, free at the point of rationing NHS.

  13. Mike Harwood
    October 4, 2012

    Interesting programme highlighting weak systems of operation and corruption. Is it any wonder that health budgets are stretched to breaking point when masses of people from across the globe can abuse the system in such a manner as this programme highlights. This country should be proud of its health service. Its chiefs taking every measure possible to ensure that the users of it is primarily for those who have paid into it! It seems totally pointless to hound the NHS to make savings while at the same time leaving the barn door wide open to anyone from anywhere. If minister cannot see this then quite frankly they should be removed from office.

    It is also interesting that the new health reforms are empowering the local GP’s with health budgets, will this mean GP’s can treat whoever they want from wherever they want compounding the problem further?

    Its about time the NHS spoke to other health organsiations and defence departments to see what can be done to introduce stronger measures in health treatment. I would have no problems with being quizzed for greater detail if it was for the benefit of wheedling out the syustem cheats. Bring it on I say.

  14. The PrangWizard
    October 4, 2012

    The will to tackle these abuses is not to be found in the places where it happens. Attitudes of political correctness are endemic and there is political opposition. The NHS, and the civil service are bloated bureaucracies incapable of internal reform, and an the problems which surface are indication that the country is becoming ungovernable. There is almost no accountabilty. Wrongdoers and the lazy often ‘get away with it’. It has a momentum of course; things clank along but it is the movement of an out-of-control 100 thousand tonne supertanker.
    Much is said about the good reputation of the NHS and that it is a valuable ‘brand’, but this reputation was made decades ago, when it was a much slimmer and fitter being. It is no longer what it was but many people believe it is. They shouldn’t be dazzled by the ‘bling’ of new expensive equipment, useful and valuable as it is of course, or by the cynical propoganda. Only when they experience it at first hand at the basic level do they find out what it is really like, open to abuse through corrupt and greedy GPs, over-managed, neglect on a massive scale sometimes leading to death, and including thousands of nurses and others who are more interested in themselves than the patients.
    We need a revolution. There is no leadership in England because there is no proper accountability in England, as Old Albion has written above. England must have a parliament of its own. This will force new thinking into all aspects of the administration of England. All MPs will need to submit for re-selection. They will need ideas which will appeal to the English electorate and only them. There will be no conflation of the words English and British which confuses many and diffuses thought at present.

  15. English Pensioner
    October 4, 2012

    British tourists in Australia are allowed free medical treatment for up to three months under a reciprocal arrangement with the UK.
    When we were there, my wife needed a routine blood test. The hospital asked for her passport, noted the date we had entered Australia and the fact that we had tourist visas and gave her the test. Otherwise you pay,and pay up front!
    No fancy EU cards issued by thousands of bureaucrats just to make work, a simple passport check is all that was needed. Why can’t we do the same?

    1. walter b
      October 4, 2012

      My wife broke her wrist in Malaga,the hospital would not give her teatment without her passport.We had the EU card.

      1. Iain Gill
        October 4, 2012

        to be fair i have had free treatment in italy and belgium, although i have had to pay (only nominal amount) for gp access in italy and spain at least i got seen straight away and significantly better service than the uk

        Reply: The UK state pays for Uk people having treatment there, but does n ot often get paid for other EU people having treatment here.

    2. Liz
      October 4, 2012

      Because it’s too easy and won’t create jobs for the boys.

      It shouldn’t be too hard to insist on cleared payment before treatment starts

      1. Bob
        October 6, 2012

        That’s right.

        Would Tesco’s let you walk out without paying for your shopping?

  16. Captain Crunch
    October 4, 2012

    If you are travelling in Europe then you can take an E111 card and ensure you have health cover around the EU in a reciprocal arrangement. This is very useful if you are taken ill or need something like dialysis several times a week.

    This is not reciprocated in the Channel Islands. Nobody who regularly needs dialysis travels to the Channel Islands for any longer than a day. But, needless to say, Channel Islands residents enjoying their ludicrous levels of low taxationare very happy to come over to the UK mainland and enjoy the NHS free at the point of delivery and (for them) free in their tax code.

    1. A different Simon
      October 4, 2012

      Popular destination for V.I.P. paedophile sex tourists .

      The UK and much of Europe fails to provide vulnerable children with protection from these predators to the extent that child abuse has to be considered institutionalised .

      If you doubt it look at the revelations which came out of Belgium 15 years ago .

      Going to ask my vice squad police friend why when the culprits are well known they are not brought to justice .

      1. Iain Gill
        October 4, 2012

        actually many kids would be better off working for fagin than the rubbish care they get at the hands of the state in places like sunderland, anyone put into care is given the worst possible upbringing possible – and no party is prepared to point the finger when it should be easy for the politicians to say that such bad levels of care for vulnerable and orphaned children is unacceptable

  17. John B
    October 4, 2012

    Time to privatise it.

    When it is taxpayers’ money, Ministers simply do not care because they do not have to.

    See rail franchise debacle, hideous charges to cover widmill subsidies on energy bills for example.

    Held to account and punished at the ballot box – really? Punishments include having to go onto the Boards of companies for seven figure salaries, not for any business acumen or competence that’s for sure, but because of the access in government circles they can give.

    1. outsider
      October 4, 2012

      Hm. The more vociferous BBC haters seem unusually quiet so far on this comment thread so far. Wonder why? As Mr Redwood understands, there is no such total black and white.

      1. Iain Gill
        October 4, 2012

        its ok i am still with james whale on this and think the bbc should have all public funds removed and they should have to operate in the real world, but then most people who have to earn their money in the real economy outside the state manipulation think the same

      2. sm
        October 5, 2012

        Who watches the BBC anymore? This story is not news. It is reputational damage limitation. Why is it being covered now and not 10 years earlier? Maybe they couldn’t bear to have been smeared or accused of some kind of …ism.

        Everyone knows the abuse is rampant.

        Its more like malfeasance in public office. So why are all the Health professionals like CEO getting mega salaries and bonuses? I wonder if they could square their ethical or observed operational stance on it with their paypackets.

      3. Bob
        October 6, 2012


        One swallow does not a summer make!
        The BBC will not break these stories until and unless they cannot keep it suppressed any longer.

    2. uanime5
      October 4, 2012

      Given what happened when rail, water, and energy companies were privatised it would be better not to privatise the health service so it remains affordable.

      1. APL
        October 6, 2012

        uanime5: “it would be better not to privatise the health service so it remains affordable.”

        Can you not afford water, uname5? Are you unable to dispose of your sewerage in an hygienic manner?

        Yes, the cost of these services has risen, but if you bothered to look at the causes you may well find that much more of the cost increase was caused by EU imposed regulations, rather than the greed or ineptitude of the water companies.

        If the water companies are having to invest in capital schemes to build in more capacity, one might ask what role government has played over the last fifteen years with its policy of unrestricted immigration – leading to an explosion in demand for the serviced provided by the water companies.

  18. forthurst
    October 4, 2012

    When NHS Trusts have fixed budgets, it has to be unsatisfactory that they could have run out of funds and thereby curtailed treatments with possibly long term adverse consequences because they had previously treated those who were not entitled, or had obliged those who were entitled to treatments to pay for private healthcare.

    Any tightening of procedures, if they could possibly occur, should take into account the possibility of collusion between GPs, who are the gatekeepers for non-emergency admissions, and supplicants, either for financial or cultural reasons.

    1. Iain Gill
      October 4, 2012

      yep GP as gatekeeper to all other care doesnt work either, and is wide open to abuse, giving more power to GP’s rather than patients is only going to make this worse

  19. David
    October 4, 2012

    My mother in law visited 10 years ago. She is not only not a British citizen she can’t not even speak English. No one ever asked if she was entitled when we took her to the GP. To be honest I didn’t even know she should have been paying for GP help.

  20. Barbara Stevens
    October 4, 2012

    Mr R, this is a serious thing, one which I have talked about on this blog and in many forums. I have understanding of what is going on, and it has been going on for years; I have worked and trained in the NHS. Has for some people calling it a failing service, they are wrong, it has saved many people’s lives and given many a new lease of life. What would replace it, a pay as you go service for only those who could afford it?
    I’m grateful for it and have seen them save my life many years ago.
    What the minister said and her reactions were pathetic, and to keep referring to a ‘review’ was rather silly. What is the ‘review’, and will they act upon it once they get it?
    We the public are fedup with all the waffle, we want action not reviews. She said they were aware of the problem, but why hasn’t there been emergency plans put in place to stem the cheating of our money?
    Your government has put in place power to GPs practices, I believe this will encourage more cheating as half of them are of foreign origin, just because they are doctors does not say all will be honest. Next we will hear of NHS money being stolen for abroad, it will come I predict it here. I’ve attended a hospital in Birmingham where (a range of foreign languages-ed) was being spoken and hardly any English, it was obvious to me not all were here legally, and their mother tongue was used some so old they had one could assume they’d come here for treatment. Its wrong, not fair, when you are cutting NHS systems here, this should have been the first piority of any government. This minister was sadly lacking, if this is all Cameron can come up with then we’re truely lost. Its no good telling NHS trusts to cut billions if millions are going to those who are not entitled, I hope you are robust in your questioning, it certainly needs someone of good interlect to handle this. Of course as the EU makes more silly laws the problem will increase, give us the referendum and we can stop this and other things with the stroke of a pen, simple.

    Reply: This is a Coalition government, not “my” government. I am asking them to change their instructions to GPs over registrations.

    1. APL
      October 6, 2012

      JR: “This is a Coalition government, not “my” government.”

      But it exists because in part because of your support.

      Reply I disagree with it over important matters like EU budgets, IMF budgets, EU referendum etc.

  21. Iain Gill
    October 4, 2012

    my question to the BBC would be who they have not done a similar story on council and housing association housing allocation? the same stuff is going on

    and probably school place allocation too

  22. Glenn Vaughan
    October 4, 2012

    Is there another country anywhere in the world that replicates the British model of health care? If so then please name the unfortunate country concerned.

  23. Steven Whitfield
    October 4, 2012

    This should come as no surprise to anyone that lives in the real world. It’s all part of the agenda to impoverish and destroy Great Britain. It was only shocking because the oh so politically correct BBC allowed the broadcast to go ahead.

    The program is working – the finances of the nation are bust , we are in the midst of an unaffordable and unsustainable population boom and the Conservative party has declared war on it’s core supporters.What a mess.

    1. Bob
      October 6, 2012

      Google “The Lima Declaration.”

  24. Jon
    October 4, 2012

    Its things like this that need to have been dealt with in some way by 2015. Where is the meat that should have been thrown to the people who voted for the Conservatives. It shouldn’t have to be such hard work for back benchers to get these things through. You could believe it if she was Lib Dem.

  25. uanime5
    October 4, 2012

    I suspect this problem won’t be resolved until the Health Secretary needs to make their £20 billions of savings, then they will make a simple change and claim full credit for any savings.

    Also it seems that the Government’s attempt to bully the disabled out of their benefits is making the disabled more suicidal:

    1. Bob
      October 6, 2012


      They’re trying to prevent bogus claims for disability benefits, not “bully the disabled”.

      It’s the fraudsters who abuse the system that you should direct your ire towards.

  26. zeena
    October 8, 2012

    The NHS is for the British, for the taxpayers. Govt. should stop being generous with taxpayers’ money.
    Politicans both central and local spend far too much time bickering amongst themselves and being spiteful to one anothe. In the meantime things are falling apart.
    The Bristish people deserve better.

Comments are closed.