Got your papers in order? Then welcome to Soft Touch Britain: Top doctors blow whistle on EU health tourists who bleed NHS dry
Top doctors say health tourists are ‘milking the NHS dry’ with treatments
Guidelines grant complex therapy to people who claim to live in the UK
Old rules forced people to prove they had lived here for six months
One Spaniard obtained £200k cancer care by using a friend’s address
By STEPHEN ADAMS and RACHEL ELLIS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
31 January 2016
European health tourists are milking the NHS for expensive cancer treatments, drugs and dialysis by claiming they are UK residents on the day they arrive in the country, top doctors reveal today.
They are being granted complex therapy – sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of pounds – thanks to ‘incredibly lax’ guidelines governing full access to Britain’s treasured Health Service, medics have told The Mail on Sunday.
Despite Government claims that it is cracking down on health tourism, the doctors say these instructions potentially allow immediate access to everything the NHS has to offer to around 500 million Europeans.
All that individuals from across Europe have to do, say the consultants, is come here and claim to be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK – which they can do by quoting a friend or relative’s address.
Until recently, official guidance was that EU passport holders had to prove they had been living in Britain for at least six months to qualify.
But new guidelines have all but scrapped the ‘six-month rule’ – plainly stating: ‘It is perfectly possible to be ordinarily resident here from the day of arrival.’
As a result the senior doctors say:
Patients are coming to hospital straight from the airport to demand treatment for serious diseases they have had for some time;
One Spaniard racked up bills topping £200,000 for cancer surgery and drugs – none of which he was billed for – by simply claiming he was living at a friend’s UK address;
Eastern Europeans are regularly flying in for treatment they cannot get at home, which can cost tens of thousands of pounds, by claiming to be staying with relatives;
Bizarrely, people can even claim to be ‘ordinarily resident’ both in their home country and in Britain – meaning they do not have to prove they live here full-time to qualify for all NHS services.
They merely need to be able to show they are in the UK lawfully ‘for settled purposes as part of the regular order of their life for the time being’.
Foreign visitors and short-term migrants cost the NHS up to £2 billion a year, according to an official report published in 2013. It estimated illegal use by ‘health tourists’ made up £300 million of that figure.
While many EU passport holders have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) this only entitles them to free NHS urgent and emergency care.
By contrast, ordinary residence grants access to everything including expensive cancer drugs and even fertility treatments such as IVF.
The UK’s policy is in stark contrast to that of other European countries, where British citizens must pay tax or be enrolled in an insurance scheme in order to access routine health services.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3424729/Got-papers-order-welcome-soft-touch-Britain-doctors-blow-whistle-EU-health-tourists-bleed-NHS-dry.html#ixzz3yodA1dd1