jueves, 31 de enero de 2013

Health tourists 'abusing precious NHS resources' say GPs - Telegraph.co.uk

Dr Graves, representing about 500 doctors, said one Bedfordshire GP had "thousands of patients on his list who entertain friends and relatives from Pakistan, India and other Asian countries and who come to England for the sole purpose of accessing free health care."

The situation, he said, was "well recognised across the country".

Earlier this month a survey carried out by Pulse magazine [**must keep**] found 52 per cent of GPs thought NHS entitlements for migrants were too generous, while only seven per cent thought they were too stringent.

New guidelines from the Primary Care Commission, a quango, state: "Nationality is not relevant in giving people entitlement to register as NHS patients for primary care services."

The guidelines also emphasise that anyone in the UK can register at a GP practice, no matter how long they have been in the country.

In 2010 a Department of Health report conceded that health tourism was costing the NHS at least £10 million a year in unrecovered costs, although doctors believe the true figure is far higher because most goes undetected.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Dr Graves said: "The biggest resource that health tourism is costing is time, and the biggest complaint GPs have is lack of time, and the difficulty in getting an appointment."

Dr Graves suggested the visitors to the UK had it "stamped in their passports" whether they were eligible for treatment or not.

"If there is any doubt, GPs and hospitals should be instructed to charge patients and leave it up to the patient to make a case that they should be reimbursed," he suggested.

He has received a reply stating: "Ministers believe that measures are needed to provide a balance of fairness and affordability in the provision of NHS treatment for overseas visitors.

"Therefore, in recognition that the current system is too complex, overly generous and inconsistently applied, the Government announced in March 2011 that we would undertake a thorough and wide ranging review of the rules and practices of charging overseas visitors for NHS care."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The NHS is not a global health service and we are committed to having a system of entitlement that is fair and affordable to the taxpayer.

"We have recently concluded a wholesale review of charges for primary and secondary care to address concerns about the rules on access to free treatment and to cut down abuse to ensure that those who should pay do so. We expect to make further announcements soon."

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