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Doctors push bill to stop billing foreign patients

DEBATE: NHS

MEDICS IN the UK have backed a bill to stop billing foreign patients for NHS care, calling it “fundamentally racist”.

The motion was proposed by Dr Jackie Appleby and has received votes from up to 500 delegates.

At a British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Belfast on Monday (Jun 24), Dr Appleby said: “The cost of treating migrants and overseas visitors on the NHS is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall budget. The cost of health tourism is disputed. It’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things.”

Health tourism is when patients who are not entitled to free nHS care are treated without paying their bills. The cost of this is reportedly between £200million and £2billion a year.

LOBBY

Patients usually in the UK for six months can access free NHS care, and so can EU citizens with an EHIC card. However, any others are charged before treatment, with NHS staff checking their status.

At the conference, Dr Omar Risk said: “We are doctors not border guards. Charging migrants for accessing NHS services is a fundamentally racist endeavour – we are complicit in the oppressive regime.”

According to the Daily Mail, doctors opposing the motion were booed.

Conservative MPs said that opening up the NHS to the rest of the world was “reckless” when resources are already so stretched.The BMA plans to lobby the Government to stop the fees.

Tory MP Andrew Percy said: “It is incredible that some doctors want to open up the NHS to health tourism from people overseas who haven’t paid in.

“Perhaps instead doctors who support this could pay for the treatment of these people themselves.

“Most people would expect our NHS services to be reserved for those who are living here permanently and who are contributing to our system.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “British taxpayers support the NHS, and it is only right that overseas visitors also make a contribution to our Health Service so everyone can receive urgent care when they need it.

“We have exemptions in place to protect public health and the most vulnerable patients.”

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