The Government has admitted that access to the NHS for anyone outside the UK and EU is so lax that, say campaigners, it leaves it wide open to abuse.
In a written Parliamentary reply, Simon Burns MP, the Minister of State for Health, confirmed that there is no formal requirement for anyone to provide documentation when registering with a GP
‘A decision on whether to register a foreign national who has a six month visitor visa is therefore currently for the GP to consider,’ he said.
‘What this means is that someone getting off a plane with a valid visitors visa, is, in effect, able to access the GP services of the NHS without ever having paid a penny into the system. Over one and a half million such visas were issued last year, ’ said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of think-tank Migrationwatch.
‘And once registered with a GP it is, in practice, an easy step to potentially highly expensive and long term treatment – all at the expense of the UK taxpayer with little or no prospect of the beneficiaries ever being charged for it.’
Sir Andrew said that as it was left to the discretion of the GP there is no reason why people who are in the country illegally should not also benefit from this policy.
‘It is clearly not the job of Doctors to act as an arm of the immigration service but there are clear and substantial risks of abuse in such a lax system and controls must be put in place,’ he said.
Sir Andrew said it was clear that the London public were deeply concerned over this issue. An opinion poll conducted among London adults found that 74% believe that everyone, including foreign nationals, should provide documents before gaining access to primary care under the NHS; only 14% disagreed.
Asked whether Boris Johnson had been right to issue a leaflet drawing attention to the fact that no documents were required, 52% said no and 33% said yes.
There was strong support for a Migrationwatch proposal that anyone who cannot supply a British passport or Birth certificate should have to apply to a regional office for a document to prove that they have a right to the NHS before they could be registered with a GP. 66% were in favour. 18% against and 16% did not know.
Said, Sir Andrew, ‘The present situation is outrageous. Everyone knows the pressure the NHS is under and its ever increasing cost to the taxpayer. To allow such easy and potentially hugely expensive access without any entitlement must be stopped at once, otherwise the NHS risks becoming the ‘World Health Service’. The government must act with urgency to close this gaping hole in the system.’
Notes to editors:
- The Parliamentary Answer referred to can be found at URL: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201212/cmhansrd/cm120423/text/120423w0006.htm#1204246000666
- 1.6 million visitor visas were issued in 2011. Visitor visa numbers can be found at the following link:
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,138 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 22nd April 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+). To see the results click here