GPs ‘backing migrant NHS charge’
Wednesday 23rd October 2013, 3:22PM BST.
GPs support Government plans to charge foreign nationals for NHS care, according to a survey.
The poll for Pulse magazine of 647 UK GPs found 55% supported the idea of imposing a levy on migrants before they use the NHS.
Some 30% were opposed to the plans while 15% said they did not know.
Earlier this week, a report commissioned by the Department of Health said the NHS could claw back more than £500 million a year if it was better at charging foreign nationals for health services.
This could be achieved by deterring so-called “health tourists”, recovering care charges from overseas visitors and charging temporary migrants for accessing NHS care.
Health tourists – such as women who travel to the UK in late pregnancy and give birth in an NHS hospital before returning home – cost the health service at least £70 million each year, according to the study.
The Government has already announced plans for a £200-a-year levy on migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) staying for between six months and five years, which is expected to raise £200 million a year.
The proposals have been opposed by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of GPs.
In the Pulse survey, 48% of the 113 survey respondents who are international medical graduates said they backed a levy, with 34% opposed.
Dr Maurice Eakin, a GP in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, told Pulse: “They (migrants) get better care here than in their own countries and if we went to their countries even on holiday we are expected to take out private medical insurance.”
Another GP who asked not to be named added: “I work in an area with a high level of migrants accessing our services. This often involves interpreters, double and multiple appointments and a high level of referral onwards.
“In the past, we also had a large number of people moving to our areas from EU countries and presenting with infertility requesting referral for IVF.”
Dr Nick Mann, a GP in Hackney, east London, said the plans were “a slippery slope”, were “not cost-effective” and would encourage xenophobia.
Pulse editor, Steve Nowottny, said: “Charging migrants for NHS case is clearly an emotive issue which divides GPs but these survey findings suggest that the Government’s plans have the support of a significant proportion of the profession.
“Many GPs feel that a levy is a sensible measure to help manage rising demand.
“However even supporters of the scheme are wary of GPs being handed responsibility for policing the system.”