Letter: ‘Misleading’ letter on ‘health tourism’

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The letter in last week’s Crawley Observer from Dr Russell Brown, Sussex representative of the BMA, criticising safeguards being introduced by the Government to prevent ‘health tourism’, was at best misleading and at worst scaremongering.

The NHS loses an estimated £200 million a year from the treatment of foreign nationals where the costs cannot be recovered. Last year I introduced a Private Member Bill to Parliament aimed at ending this abuse and the Immigration Bill being put forward this autumn will confirm action to remedy this problem is finally taken.

The new requirements will not be about denying health treatment to those who need care, but rather they will properly record when services are used by foreign patients so the British taxpayer does not unfairly pick up the bill. This will not burden the NHS, indeed it is the norm in most other health systems around the world; in countries like France, Spain, Germany and Australia, that the costs of treating foreigners there, including us Brits, are recovered. In fact, this will save our Health Service millions of pounds.

NHS budgets are being increased locally and nationally, but even greater investment can be achieved by stopping our system effectively continuing as an inter-National Health Service as now. The Government have listened to concerns raised by the BMA, although it should not be forgotten that the BMA originally opposed the introduction of the NHS in the first place.

Henry Smith, MP for Crawley