A recent report investigated claims that foreign ‘health tourists’ are able to buy their way onto UK NHS patient lists with GP surgeries.
Apparently these cases of bribery aren’t a one off, but an epidemic. BBC’s Panorama sent undercover reporters to various GP surgeries, where they posed as ‘health tourists’. These reporters subsequently managed to buy their way onto GP lists for substantial amounts of money. They were then referred to hospitals for treatment, even though their complaints were not critical emergencies.
Every health tourist who pays a GP or Health Centre to be registered is handing their money over illegally, and depriving a UK citizen of treatment. The NHS is based on entitlement; as a UK resident you have access to the system, it has nothing to do with how much cash you cough up. This illegal act is heinous enough, but the fact that it then leads to abuse of, an advantage taking of an already under-strain system, is disgusting. People wait long enough for hospital referrals, and to have treatment; even then the service is slow and poor. There is also the post code lottery to contend with; what treatment and medication received depends on where you live in the country! Yet, ‘health tourists’ don’t have this concern, but they are not even UK residents!
People in the UK pay National Insurance to be included in the health system, but they have no privileges. Why then should a health tourist?! This abuse of paying for registration to gain access to the NHS should be dealt with swiftly, before such precious resources are drained dry from the UK residents. Where are the tighter and tougher independent checks, controls and regulations for surgeries to adhere to, to prevent abuses of power? Who is checking on the NHS to make sure money isn’t being wasted and resources aren’t being misused? I mean, it is only a billion pound a year to keep the NHS ticking over, shoddy as it is; but hey that is OK, we have money and resources to waste. The NHS is open to everyone without one question being asked! It seems the NHS believes it has money to burn!
If you are not eligible for free treatment then you should be paying for it, it is that simply surely?! Yet, it is estimated that over the last 3 years health tourism has been allowed to get away with depriving the NHS of over £40 million! It is law that a person has to have been living in the UK for the last year to receive free treatment; although GP surgeries, walk in surgeries and A&E services can overlook this if the case is deemed severe, infectious or life threatening. Hospitals should check a patient’s residential status to ensure they live in the UK, but they don’t; in fact 133 Hospital Trusts didn’t check at all! A mistake, well not one to be forgiven when it has cost the country millions!
People who venture to the UK just to take advantage of what they believe to be another ‘free’ system available for them to abuse should be stopped. It is unfair to expect UK residents to continue paying into a system that is so poorly regulated, and so often abused. Would any other billion pound business be so lax in their regulations and accounts? NO! People in the UK are already paying into the system and hoping they will receive good treatment, but every year the satisfaction with service declines, as money leaks from the NHS. Now one of the reasons for such leakage has been revealed it should be fixed immediately. The NHS’s belt needs tightening, or UK residents will continue to lose out.
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