A group of health expert’s writings in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, has stated that the UK government’s Immigration Bill is likely to pose “threats” to public health – resulting in more stress and increased costs for NHS staff. They suggest that the Bill will alter the access and costs to the NHS for visitors and temporary migrants from outside the European Economic Area.
Immigration Bill: ‘Migrant Health Levy’
The authors claim that the Conservative Party is concerned that they will lose support in favour of the United Kingdom Independence Party and want to come across tougher on immigration. Politicians have claimed that the measures are essential to cut costs of ‘health tourism’ and ‘abuse’ by illegal migrants. This is despite the fact that the UK benefits from health tourism and whilst immigrants make up 4.5% of the population in England, they are responsible for less than 2% of NHS expenditure.
Furthermore, the Bill suggests to implement a charge (‘migrant health levy’), for migrants seeking entry or leave to remain for a limited period to access healthcare – regardless of whether they hold insurance or access the NHS service during their stay.
Dr Sarah Steele, co-author from Queen Mary, University of London, said:
“Healthy migrants contribute significantly to the economy, working hard and contributing to a more vibrant UK. We should not be pushing migrants away from NHS services that better their health both immediately and in the longer term.”
Who should pay for their NHS Treatment?
The government summarised that the following should be charged for treatment they receive in the future:
- Visitors (those in the UK for less for 6 months): Will be expected to continue to pay for their treatment whilst in the UK and should be expected to have adequate travel insurance to cover any unnecessary or unexpected health needs whilst in the country.
- Non-EEA temporary migrants: workers, students, family members currently have free access to the NHS. The Immigration Bill intends to amend the current rules so that permanent residence will be set as the new qualifying criteria for free NHS care for non-EEA migrants subject to immigration control. Further, temporary non-EEA migrants will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of any visa application.
- Illegal migrants (including failed asylum seekers liable to removal, illegal entrants and those who have overstayed their visas): Government is of the view that they should not be afforded benefits of free access to the NHS and should be continued to be charged.
HSCIC Statistics Show Extent of NHS Reliance on Foreign Nationals
Ironically, statistics from HSCIC show that professionally qualified clinical staff are more likely to be foreign nationals (14%) and the figure rises even more for doctors (26%). It seems that those who have ties to the UK through the Commonwealth provide the most employees, as well as EU and English speaking countries. These figures have led the British Medical Association (BMA) to observe that without the contribution of non-British staff, “many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients”.
A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association stated:
“Overseas doctors have for many years made a valuable and important contribution to the NHS, especially in key services where there has been a historic shortage of UK-trained doctors. For many years the NHS actively encouraged overseas doctors to move to the UK, many of whom committed to a life here and have since become British citizens.”
Successful UK Visitor Visa Applications
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