So straight on to the matter at hand. "Health Tourism". What does that actually mean? Well what that conjures up in my mind is a bunch of tourists going round NHS hospitals and GP surgeries on tours and taking pictures of sick people. But in the current political debate this means people coming from other countries and using NHS services to get treated and then going back to their country of origin.
So where has this issue suddenly come from. Well our beloved Health Secretary has just announced that People from outside Europe staying for up to five years will face an annual charge of at least £200.
Residency rules will also be tightened on free treatment and more services, such as access to GPs, will be chargeable.
Apparently the government doesn't know how much "health tourism" costs but figures mooted have been anything from £12m to £200m. So the government don't how much it costs yet they are willing to pluck a random figure (£200 per year) as a charge rate. Obviously not thought through at all. If you read the BBC article where I got this information from, people outside the EEA have to pay anyway but the rules aren't enforced enough. So rather than just pick random figures to charge people why not just enforce the current rules that are already there? As usual with this government, their policies are ill thought out and they will probably do a u-turn on this.
According to Owen Jones costs could be up to £500m to administer this policy. So even if it cost £200m a year, the government will still lose money. Also the NHS budget is over £100bn a year so even if it was £200m, that is a very small percentage of the costs of the NHS. But regardless of all the costs, why is healthcare a product in which you charge people for? All doctors have signed up to a worldwide Hippocratic Oath in which they have to treat patients no matter what. As Dr Clare Gerada has pointed out "My first duty is to my patient - I don't ask where they're from or whether they've got a credit card or whether they can pay"
Some people like Diane Abbott have called this policy "xenophobic". However Nadine Dorries said that this is purely about financial costs towards the NHS and that it is not fair that people that haven't paid into the system get the same access that people who have. I actually put this point to her on twitter. "You say that only people that pay into NHS should get treatment. what about people on JSA who don't earn enough to pay NI?". Now she hasn't got back to me on this but if she did believe this at least she be would be consistent. Consistently wrong but still consistent
But after all the debate surrounding this you can probably tell that I am against policy purely because I believe healthcare is a fundamental human right that everyone should have access to free at the point of use and that the doctors should stick to the Hippocratic Oath that they signed up to when they first became doctors.
What I also believe is that Jeremy Hunt is distracting us from the government's back-door privatisation of the NHS by blaming immigrants for the failings of the NHS even though 40% of the workforce in the NHS are immigrants so we rely on them to provide the services we need. Let's not get distracted by this absurd policy and take the fight to the government for destroying our NHS with £20bn cuts leading to closures of A & E services. Like with the welfare "reforms", the government are trying to turn us against each other rather than against them.