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Controversial clampdown on ‘NHS tourists’

NHS Wales has been conducting a covert crackdown on so-called ‘NHS tourists’ – foreign patients who dodge charges for medical treatment that they are not entitled to receive for free. It has been revealed that in December, staff received a memo instructing them how to vet patients before they receive treatment.

The guidance states that they should ask patients if they have been in the UK for a minimum of a year, which entitles them to free treatment. They have also been instructed to ask all patients in order to avoid accusations of racism.

Despite the clampdown, the NHS in Wales is facing £1.3m shortfall due to this problem. The rules, which apply to to all urgent and non-urgent treatment though not to emergency care, have, however, been criticised for contradicting the principles of the NHS.

[quote top=Dr Andrew Dearden, chair of the BMA’s Welsh Council, said:]It is perfectly reasonable to stop those who aren’t entitled to NHS from having anything other than emergency care. But if someone has been in this country perfectly reasonably on a visa or something else for six months and they need treatment it’s another matter.

They will be paying income tax and having National Insurance contributions taken from them but they can’t have free healthcare seems to be contrary to the founding principles of the NHS.[/quote]