A new booklet issued by the Mayor of London detailing how groups including illegal immigrants and foreign visitors can access the NHS – whether or not they are entitled to use it – has been branded an ‘absolute disgrace’ by think-tank Migration Watch UK, which is demanding its immediate recall.
It is estimated that there are some ½ million illegal immigrants in London and the number of foreign visitors to Britain is nearly two million of whom many, of course, come to London. Most of them come on six month visas which is plenty of time for free medical treatment.
The booklet was issued by the Mayor of London in March 2012 and purports to inform people how to access primary care. It is available on line in nineteen languages.
The weasel words are the clue: 'Sometimes general practices ask for proof of address or proof of ID. If you do not have any documents, they can still register you”.
Later the pamphlet says “overseas visitors do not legally have to prove their identity or immigration status to register with a practice”.
‘To encourage this further pressure on an already overstretched service is an absolute disgrace and will be greeted with anger by UK taxpayers,’ said Sir Andrew Green, Migration Watch chairman.
The leaflet continues that GP’s can only turn down an application if the Primary Care Trust has agreed that they can close their list to new patients, or if they have other (unspecified) reasonable grounds. There follows a long list of grounds on which they may not refuse an application. This is a clearly implied invitation to challenge a refusal to register; indeed the leaflet goes on to suggest that the foreign national asks for the reasons for refusal in writing and then goes on to explain where such a complaint should be made. GPs are bound to feel under pressure to register applicants without asking any questions.
Said Sir Andrew: ‘What other country in the world would register someone for free medical treatment without any documents at all? Boris risks turning the National Health Service into an International Health Service – paid for by the British taxpayer.
‘From Primary care it is a small (and poorly policed) step to secondary care in hospitals. We call on the Mayor to withdraw the booklet and we call on the government to take effective steps to restrict NHS access, except for emergencies, to those who have contributed to it.
‘With the service already struggling, it is ridiculous to have an open door policy towards all foreigners in Britain, including those who have no right to be in Britain at all. The government should also insist that foreign visitors should take out health insurance before being granted a visa as is the case for visas to EU countries who are members of the Schengen area,’ he said.
Notes to Editors:
1 The latest semi official estimate of the illegal population of London was contained in a report by the LSE for the GLA dated May 2009. The central estimate (page 7) of 442,000 at the end of 2007 will have been reduced by the grant of settlement to some backlog asylum seekers but increased by further overstayers. A ball park figure of half a million is therefore as useful a figure as is available.
2 1.7 million visitor visas were issued in 2011. See: