Immigration rise prompts NHS cost fears…

June 23, 2003

A report out today warns of the potential impact on the NHS of the cost of treating the rising numbers of patients with infectious diseases resulting from the very great increase in asylum and immigration in recent years.

Research by think-tank Migrationwatch indicates that the number of cases could run into tens of thousands and the potential cost to the NHS could amount to over a billion pounds for each year's arrivals.

The infections of particular concern are AIDS, the hepatitis viruses B and C and tuberculosis. These diseases represent specific, previously uncommon infections which, in some sending countries, are much more prevalent than in the UK. The authors multiplied the incidence of these diseases in the sending countries by the number of migrants from them to get an approximate measure of the likely number of cases arriving in Britain.

'The potential cost to the NHS is enormous in both financial and staff terms... It is absolutely essential that firm action be taken to prevent any further increase in this growing pool of potential infection. Furthermore, even a fraction of the money spent in the UK would treat a far larger number of patients in their own countries' said Professor Roger Williams, Professor of Hepetology at UCL and a member of the Migrationwatch Advisory Council.

For AIDS patients, it has been estimated that modern anti-viral therapy costs at least £15,000 a year. For hepatitis B and C the cost of annual therapy is £10-12,000. Both these infections can lead to progressive disease with repeated hospital admissions and prolonged outpatient surveillance with even higher costs for those that come finally to liver transplantation. There are also calls on primary care.

If 10,000 eventually require treatment for Hepatitis B for say, three years, the total cost would be £300 million. Similarly, 3,000 cases of Hepatitis C would cost £90 million. But the greatest costs arise from HIV which, once diagnosed will cost £15,000 for about ten years, depending on survival. This could amount to £150,000 per patient. Similar sums spent in the countries of origin could benefit a vastly greater number of sufferers.

'We see our report as a contribution to the Government's recently announced urgent review of the issues surrounding immigration and health which we welcome. These numbers can only be orders of magnitude but it is clear that the introduction of pre-entry checks for work permit applicants and students is an urgent priority,' said Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch UK. 'Indeed, there are few countries in the world where they are not already in place. Asylum seekers should be tested on arrival to minimise the risk of transmission'.

The evidence is contained in a submission by Migrationwatch UK to the joint All-Party Group on AIDS and the joint All-Party Group on Refugees who are enquiring into 'Migrants and HIV'. The Chairman and Professor Roger Williams, a member of the Advisory Council of Migrationwatch UK, have offered to give oral evidence to the two Groups.

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