Tales of elderly relatives of migrant workers from the other 4 continents turning up for their heart by-pass operations on the NHS are FINALLY due to be brought to an end with the announcement from the government that migrants from outside the EU will have to have private health insurance. This is long overdue and a welcome common-sense decision from the Home Secretary, reported front page in today’s Mail. Our only concern is the exemption for A&E. Whereas we would not want to deny treatment to someone involved in a traumatic accident, experience tells us that many migrants from outside and inside the EU use A&E as a one-stop-shop for their healthcare needs. Their logic can’t be faulted – they have a guaranteed appointment with a ‘proper’ doctor within 4 hours!
And in the EU meantime, we still need to sort out cross-border payments (DH is on to this). There is currently a draft directive before the Council of the European Union aiming to clarify patient’s rights to care. However, history has shown that health tourism is a significant cost to the NHS because personal and national bills remain unpaid – although the estimates of £200m don’t seem to have an evidence base. However there are enough anecdotal stories to demonstrate that there is a significant problem. It seems to me that this mess is another reason to get electronic patient records sorted so patient care, treatment and payments can be tracked much more efficiently!