The NHS Must Rein in the Health Tourists

Article excerpt

AMERICAN healthcare providers are notoriously hard-hearted towards would-be patients without the ability to pay. Now British hospitals may become a little tougher on those who come here to exploit the health service, if they follow the lead of the West Middlesex University Hospital. It obviously provides emergency treatment to all-comers but offers a more limited service to foreign would-be patients whose lives are not in danger -- sufficient to stabilise their condition but not a full course of treatment. For that they have to pay. The spectacle of the NHS requiring cash, Visa or Mastercard upfront before giving HIV and cancer treatment to foreigners may seem incongruous but it is an acknowledgment of reality.

Health tourism is a particular problem in London and hospitals have been heavily burdened by the arrival of patients within hours of giving birth and those needing lifesaving operations or dying of HIV/Aids. They often leave after treatment without paying their bills. As individuals they inspire sympathy but collectively they impose a considerable cost on the NHS -- [pounds sterling]7 million in the past year. …


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