Labour going soft on health tourists will cost you £2billion 

Published Date: November 24, 2019

Labour plans to scrap an NHS charge for migrants at a likely cost of more than £2 billion over the next five years.

The party wants to get rid of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) which brings in hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Labour is also looking at reducing the number of foreign patients who are charged hospital fees for expensive services.

Labour is also considering reducing the numbers of ‘overseas visitor’ patients who are billed upfront for non-urgent hospital treatments. These are patients who do not live in the UK, but are here – legally or illegally – without having paid the IHS [File photo]

Labour is also considering reducing the numbers of ‘overseas visitor’ patients who are billed upfront for non-urgent hospital treatments. These are patients who do not live in the UK, but are here – legally or illegally – without having paid the IHS [File photo]

Last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock attacked the plans, predicting they would ‘give free rein to health tourism’, while a former NHS consultant raised fears they would ‘open the floodgates to sick people from around the world’.

Labour’s proposals to make it easier for migrants to use the NHS for free are wrapped up in cosy language in its high-spending manifesto, launched last week by Jeremy Corbyn.

The party pledged: ‘We will guarantee universal healthcare…by protecting the rights of EU workers, other migrants and refugees.’

The British Medical Association has also thrown its weight behind ending migrant charging, with its members voting last June in favour of a motion calling for ‘the policy of charging migrants for NHS care to be abandoned and for the NHS to be free for all at the point of delivery’ [File photo]

The British Medical Association has also thrown its weight behind ending migrant charging, with its members voting last June in favour of a motion calling for ‘the policy of charging migrants for NHS care to be abandoned and for the NHS to be free for all at the point of delivery’ [File photo]

A spokesman for Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth last night confirmed that Labour would ‘bin’ the IHS.

Temporary migrants must pay the IHS to acquire a short-term visa, giving them total access to NHS services. Last year, it raised £298 million for the NHS, according to figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act.

That sum could increase to £450 million or more a year under Tory plans to raise the annual fee from £400 to £625 a head, to better reflect the actual cost. The Tories also want to extend it so that more migrants pay.

Labour is also considering reducing the numbers of ‘overseas visitor’ patients who are billed upfront for non-urgent hospital treatments. These are patients who do not live in the UK, but are here – legally or illegally – without having paid the IHS.

One group of medics called ‘Docs Not Cops’ object to asking patients if they are entitled to ‘free’ hospital treatment. They created posters including one urging resistance to what they called ‘Far Right Policies in the NHS’

One group of medics called ‘Docs Not Cops’ object to asking patients if they are entitled to ‘free’ hospital treatment. They created posters including one urging resistance to what they called ‘Far Right Policies in the NHS’

Last year, NHS hospitals in England billed such patients £91 million; the year before £87 million – however they only collect £1 in every £3 they try to recoup.

In one case, the bill for a Nigerian woman who gave birth to quadruplets in a London NHS hospital came to more than £500,000 – but she was unable to pay.

Labour’s manifesto plans follow years of campaigning by hard-Left groups ideologically opposed to charging anyone for NHS care.

One group of medics called ‘Docs Not Cops’ object to asking patients if they are entitled to ‘free’ hospital treatment. 

They created posters including one urging resistance to what they called ‘Far Right Policies in the NHS’ and another depicting a tethered pregnant woman, which read: ‘No borders in maternity care, take your racism elsewhere.’

The British Medical Association has also thrown its weight behind ending migrant charging, with its members voting last June in favour of a motion calling for ‘the policy of charging migrants for NHS care to be abandoned and for the NHS to be free for all at the point of delivery’. 

Although the cost of axing the IHS could top £2 billion over the course of the next Parliament, Labour defended the move. 

‘We’ve repeatedly called for the Government to bin this charge,’ Mr Ashworth’s spokeswoman said, explaining that NHS workers on short-term visas also have to pay the IHS. 

‘It is an unfair tax on the much-needed doctors and nurses who work hard to care for our sick and elderly, who are already paying to use the same services [through taxation] anyway.’

Temporary migrants must pay the IHS to acquire a short-term visa, giving them total access to NHS services. Last year, it raised £298 million for the NHS, according to figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act [File photo]

Temporary migrants must pay the IHS to acquire a short-term visa, giving them total access to NHS services. Last year, it raised £298 million for the NHS, according to figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act [File photo]

These NHS workers only make up a fraction of those who pay the surcharge, almost half of whom are foreign students.

Mr Hancock said of the plans: ‘The money raised from the Immigration Health Surcharge goes back into the health service, to help make sure our NHS has the resources it needs to always be there for you and your family.’

Former NHS cancer surgeon J Meirion Thomas said ditching the IHS and watering down upfront charging ‘would inevitably open the floodgates to sick people from around the world, who see they can get NHS treatment for free’.

He said: ‘That would significantly reduce the resources available to those patients who are now entitled to free NHS care. It will give free rein to health tourism and is unfair on hard working British taxpayers. It is more proof that Labour can’t be trusted with our NHS.’

The Labour spokeswoman said: ‘We have always been clear we will introduce exemptions from any such charges for those who have the right to be here, including asylum seekers and refugees.’

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Published On: November 24, 2019

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