Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MPs Join Revolt over War on NHS Tourists; PLAN TO DENY CARE TO FAILED ASYLUM SEEKERS IS DENOUNCED AS MONSTROUS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MPs Join Revolt over War on NHS Tourists; PLAN TO DENY CARE TO FAILED ASYLUM SEEKERS IS DENOUNCED AS MONSTROUS

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LEAPMAN

TONY BLAIR today faced a major new revolt over government plans to deny NHS care to failed asylum seekers.

Labour MPs denounced the proposals as "monstrous" and "unethical".

The British Medical Association said it would put doctors in an impossible position.

Ministers were announcing details of the clampdown on "health tourism" which is estimated to cost Britain [pounds sterling]200million a year. From April, refugees whose asylum claims have been rejected will be turned away from NHS hospitals and surgeries unless they pay up-front.

Even those in acute pain, or suffering from HIV infection, will be refused treatment unless their case is judged a "genuine emergency".

Other groups, including business travellers and relatives of foreigners living in the UK, will also lose their right to free treatment. MPs are set to be denied a vote because the measures will come in under existing laws.

The Prime Minister approved the curbs after evidence of mounting public concern about the cost of treating foreigners on the NHS.

Hospital chiefs have pointed to cases of pregnant women arriving in Britain days before they were due to give birth, having their baby free on the NHS, and leaving soon afterwards without paying a penny.

But some Labour MPs called the Government's response an overreaction and vowed to protest in the Commons. Former minister Glenda Jackson said: "It is quite monstrous to tell families who have no money that they cannot have treatment. Some will even have children who were born here.

"This is just part and parcel of the Government blaming others for problems rather than sitting down to sort them out in an efficient manner."

Labour MP Lynne Jones said: "I think it is utterly stupid as well as unethical. The money saved will be trivial, but it could potentially lead to higher medical costs later."

Neil Gerrard, Labour chairman of the all-party Aids group, said it would be "foolhardy" to deny HIV sufferers free treatment. He said: "There is no hard evidence to suggest a lot of people come here just to exploit the NHS. …

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