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Health tourists bring country to its knees

Friday, 25 October 2013

Health tourists bring country to its knees

Foreigners are costing the NHS trillions of pounds a year, according to the latest government report on health tourism. People are pouring into the country to enjoy the benefits of the NHS’s teeming A&E departments, creaking GP appointment systems, overcrowded wards and freely available hospital-acquired infections.

A government spokesman said: “We do not want to overstate the problem, but overseas visitors are costing the NHS literally trillions of pounds a day. Of course there are legitimate reasons why some people visiting the UK need to seek NHS treatment, but others are abusing the system by coming here in the hope of getting ill or suffering a serious injury.”

The government will introduce a series of measures to address the problem, including pay as you go charges for overseas visitors, coin-operated access to hospitals and GP surgeries and a levy on infants born to non-residents based on birth weight.

Ambulances will be fitted with credit card terminals and anyone planning a health excursion to the UK will be offered a range of pre-payment and discount schemes for expensive treatments and popular procedures.

Responding to claims that the payment system would be unworkable the spokesman said: “We accept that it will not always be possible to take payment at the point of use, particularly if the patient is unconscious, losing a lot of blood or very distressed. We don’t want anyone in a vulnerable condition to have to worry, so we plan to make an online system available at the bedside for anyone who needs to pay later.”

Frontline staff will be trained to distinguish genuine foreigners from British citizens and the government promised new guidance covering British people who look foreign, foreign people who look British and people who just look a bit suspicious to “help staff make sensitive and informed judgments about who to demand money from”.

Overseas visitors have also been blamed for:

  • The rise in energy costs
  • Bird flu
  • Infiltrating the police force and lying about encounters with MPs
  • The decline of UK manufacturing industry
  • The 2008 banking collapse
  • The HS2 high speed rail link

A government spokesman admitted that not all health tourism is bad. “Health tourists provide a welcome distraction from deprivation, unemployment, economic stagnation and social decay, so they have their uses,” she said.

Travel editor: Julian Patterson

Jennie Shine
Jennie Shine says:
Oct 25, 2013 11:55 AM
I am delighted that the issue around Health tourists is being addressed. As a nurse of long service it has always been an issue knowing whether or not a patient has contributed to the funding of the care they are receiving. I have two main comments around this:
We should be flattered and grateful that oversees patients see the NHS as a positive place to come and receive good care - well done us! However they do need to pay which can be positive for both sides.
How, once here do we categorize effectively to identify which patients are free and which need to pay? The development of robust criteria whilst maintaining the focus of frontline staff on care rather than more bureauocrasy will be interesting to follow.
Jo Verrall
Jo Verrall says:
Oct 25, 2013 11:59 AM
Well that was a very serious comment on an article which was basically satirical - I thought the article was a breath of fresh air!
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 12:01 PM
We do not want to overstate the problem, but overseas visitors are costing the NHS literally trillions of pounds a day - Seriously? Is this kind of overexaggeration supposed to be a joke? I don't find blaming unidentfied foreigners for wasting trillions of pounds a day to be amusing. Political posturing of the most hateful kind.
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 04:29 PM
don't you get the irony???
Richard Timson
Richard Timson says:
Oct 30, 2013 10:31 AM
I couldn't of put it better myself
Hugh Snape
Hugh Snape says:
Oct 25, 2013 12:04 PM
Not as straightforward as the press release suggests perhaps, have a look at the link below:

Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 12:51 PM
Try getting free access to Healthcare in a multitude of countries around the Globe. They seem to manage to get 'overseas' patients to pay, even with E111 (or equivalents) or insurance. We seem to be inept and unwilling to do so, hence we continually appear attractive to health tourists.
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 01:04 PM
Brilliant article. My company is in the early stages of trialing credit payment systems for ambulances in London. To date the trial has been a great success and it has been a real eye opener to see the number of people who suddenly leap off the stretcher when the credit card payment system is presented to them.
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 03:08 PM
I think the article should have been published after analysing the facts and figures. 3 Trillion pounds/day..Incorrect figure and on top of that it’s been quoted to a Gov. Spokesman but who? must have a name I think.
How can overseas visitors are blamed for
•The rise in energy costs??
•The decline of UK manufacturing industry??
•The 2008 banking collapse??
•The HS2 high speed rail link??

I must have to say the authenticity of facts is under question.

Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
Oct 25, 2013 03:29 PM
Oh dear.
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 04:05 PM
Oh dear indeed. Are people really taking this great commentary as 'fact'? Well done Julian for highlighting the shameful exaggerations and blame heaped on so-called overuse of the NHS by health 'tourists', which in real terms accounts for a tiny proportion of costs to the NHS and just provides another excuse to take away the focus from the real issues, and encourages discrimination and poor care to people who desperately need it.
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 04:30 PM
oh dear oh dear oh dear...does the NHS not employ people with a sense of humour anymore??????
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 04:50 PM
Obviously it's not a mandatory requirement. It just helps.
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 04:11 PM
And let's not forget the badgers!
Anonymous says:
Oct 25, 2013 04:32 PM
These weekly updates are priceless...for everything else there is Mastercard!
robin.cameron@nhs.net says:
Oct 28, 2013 08:29 AM
I'm astinished. For years I have strongly believed that the possession of a robust sense of humour is a strongly mandated employment competence in the NHS - otherwise almost everything else makes little sense.
Yes, Julian, very glad to see your perceptive telescope directed at this, frankly, minor issue (that is 'minor' and not 'nil'). The cost of treating 'Health Tourists' is a drop in a bucket of the total cost of Health and Social Care across the UK. Does that mean we should be myopic to abuses or excesses? Of course not. But all things in proportion. No, of course Ambulance Crews, GP Receptionist and A&E staff must NOT be forced to be quasi-border Police (heaven forefend), consider the wider socio-cultural viewpoint - Cool Britannia and our international image as a fair, just, civilised, tolerant <insert adjective here> country. One of the really very few in the world determined to stick to its pleadges of International Aid.
Yes we are doing this - not without controversy, it has to be said - but as a counterpoint, consider the iota of good that unquestionning, unchallenging provision of Health Care to 'Health Toursts' does also. Would we shave a £Billion£ off the International Aid budget to pay for it? No, almost certainly not.
Instead, considering the tiniest proportion of total health and social spend that this absorbs, it is a better reflection of the type of society we are and wish to be that we might continue as we are.
Evening all.
Julian Patterson
Julian Patterson says:
Oct 28, 2013 11:23 AM
People hate to see their generosity abused, which is what gets most of us worked up about "health tourism" - apart from the term itself. Oh and the money, which has a severe inflationary effect on our indignation.
As far as we can see the economic cost of illegitimate use of the NHS by overseas visitors is low: less than half of one percent of the NHS budget even by the most inflated estimate.
But that is not really the point. Whether it costs a lot or a little, the two practical questions to ask about abuse of the system are how much would it cost to fix and what will be the consequences? It will be a pyrrhic victory if the price of venting our disapproval of a low number of selfish people is higher than the cost of turning a blind eye, or if we do further damage to the morale of NHS staff by adding border patrols to their job descriptions, or if we end up doing more harm than good.
Anonymous says:
Oct 28, 2013 04:21 PM
I say, should you not all be busy working. Instead you comment on this blog. You too are costing the NHS millions and trillions. Each minute equates to pounds lost. In fact, me typing this now has cost about 3 minues equal to about....wait a minute and I'll just work it out! I'm back... £12!
Anonymous says:
Oct 28, 2013 08:25 PM
I truly enjoyed this article. Nice to have a laugh such as this one gave
barry fitzgerald
barry fitzgerald says:
Oct 29, 2013 09:54 AM
As always a very funny satirical blog. This "health tourism" issue is another example of the government lying to the public with made up figures whilst trying to out do UKIp in the xenophobia stakes. It seems foreigners are only welcome here if they're rich chinese coming here to buy what's left of the country. How mean spirited this country's become.
robin.cameron@nhs.net says:
Oct 29, 2013 04:45 PM
Perhaps we'll charge all foreigners for watching or listening to the BBC without paying the licence fee.
In fact, putting litter in a bin without paying council tax should be chargeable too.
Should we be horrified at the exessive 'free ride' we give to foreigners?
Frankly, no. It's all part of what makes us who we are.
Anonymous says:
Nov 09, 2017 11:44 AM

Yes, utter mugs.

alasdair mcewan
alasdair mcewan says:
Nov 07, 2017 04:40 PM

Thanks very much for the laughter therapy. I will send you a bill in due course for the surgical repair of my hernia.

Anonymous says:
Nov 09, 2017 11:43 AM

As well as this, can we tackle all the idiots who go abroad for cosmetic procedures that invariably go wrong and who return to us to put it right!