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Foreign Nationals: NHS Treatment

Volume 621: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2017

1. What steps he is taking to ensure that foreign nationals who are not entitled to free NHS treatment pay in full for the treatment they have received. (908621)

Under this Government, the amount recovered from international visitors has trebled from £81 million to £289 million. Yesterday, I announced that we were going further by introducing upfront ID checks and payment for elective care, stopping IVF being available for those who pay the health visa surcharge and asking GPs to help to identify European citizens at the point of registration so that we can recharge their costs to their home country.

My constituents in Kettering welcome the Government’s latest crackdown on this abuse of our national health service at a time when we are struggling to find enough money to pay for the care of elderly people who have paid into the NHS all their lives. We simply cannot afford to provide a free international health service.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a national health service, not an international health service. I was disappointed to see comments from the Opposition yesterday that the money this would raise would be a drop in the ocean—[Hon. Members: “It is.”] We are seeking to raise £500 million. That is enough to finance 5,000 GPs, who could help the constituents of everyone in this House.

Is it not a coincidence that, whenever we hear about disastrous figures for NHS performance and a huge deterioration in waiting times, as we did at the weekend, the Government re-announce yet another measure to crack down on health tourism? Is not the main problem with our health and social care system the fact that it is chronically underfunded, and that this Government are doing nothing about it?

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what we are doing about the underfunding. We are raising three times more from international visitors than when he was a Health Minister, and that is paying for doctors, nurses and better care for older people in his constituency and in all our constituencies.

Given the Government’s stated objective of reducing health inequalities, will the Secretary of State set out how he will guarantee that those who are, for example, homeless or who have severe enduring mental illness—the most disadvantaged in our society, who are unlikely to have the required documentation—will receive the treatment they need?

I can absolutely reassure my hon. Friend. What we are doing is based on good evidence from hospitals such as Peterborough hospital, which has introduced ID checks for elective care and has seen absolutely no evidence that anyone who needs care has been denied it. This is not about denying anyone the care they need in urgent or emergency situations; it is about ensuring that we abide by the fundamental principle of fairness so that people who do not pay for the NHS through their taxes should pay for the care we provide.

Has the Secretary of State actually been recently to a clinical commissioning group like ours in Huddersfield, where one more duty would really break the camel’s back? We have just heard that the CCG is changing its constitution, excluding GPs and totally changing the nature of the CCG. Like most of them, our CCG is under-resourced and under stress, and asking it to do something else like this, which will be complex, difficult and perhaps impossible, will kill the poor bloody animal.

With reference to foreign nationals, and including a question mark at the end of the hon. Gentleman’s observations.

I very much hope that the extra money we raise from international visitors will help all Members of this House because it will lead to more funding for the NHS, including for Huddersfield CCG.

When I was in the travel industry, I learned that anyone wanting to travel to, say, America had to have medical insurance. Could it not be a requirement for people coming into this country to ensure that they had such insurance?

We looked at this extremely carefully, and I have a lot of sympathy with what my hon. Friend is saying. People do not have to have medical insurance if they visit countries such as America as a tourist, and we do not want to insist on that for visitors to this country because of our tourism industry here. We concluded that it was better to have a system in which people who get a visa to come and live here have to pay a surcharge. That is why we have introduced the visa health surcharge, which raises several hundred million pounds for our NHS.

I have always supported the view that we are not running an international health service, but as well as directing his energies towards that question will the Secretary of State direct them towards stopping the waste of money that occurs elsewhere in the NHS when highly trained surgeons and theatre teams are forced to wait to operate because beds are not available for their patients and have to spend their time doing nothing? How much is wasted in that way because of the chronic underfunding that this Government have introduced?

The constant accusations of underfunding would have a little more credibility if Labour was actually promising any more money for the NHS. Instead, at the last election it committed to £5.5 billion less than this Government.