Immigrants, HIV and the true cost to the NHS: Should the ‘International Health Service’ be treating patients who come here with the killer disease?
By SUE REID
17 October 2014
At St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, the HIV-testing clinic is always busy and a cacophony of foreign voices sounds out from the waiting room.
Russians mingle with Africans, Brazilians with Romanians as they arrive for blood tests in order to ascertain whether they are suffering from what is Britain’s fastest-growing serious medical condition.
The remarkably swift and efficient NHS service at this world-famous hospital – and other HIV testing clinics across the country – is free to anyone, wherever they come from in the world.
Those who test positive join the estimated 7,000 or so people in the UK who have been newly diagnosed every year over the last ten years as suffering from HIV.
Of those newly diagnosed in 2013, more than 60 per cent were born abroad.
Each HIV patient from overseas – whether here legally or illegally, whether a failed asylum seeker or student on a temporary visa – is entitled to free treatment on the NHS.
This is the result of a decision by the Coalition in 2012 to make HIV treatment free to all non-British visitors after lobbying by Left-leaning politicians and campaign groups. The aim was to stop the spread of the virus.
However, many believe that this change has led to an increase in so-called health tourism as foreigners deliberately come to this country to access free NHS treatment.
The process is simple: Foreigners can get a unique and permanent NHS number, which they are then usually able to use to get free hospital care. They can also book an appointment online or just walk in without a doctor’s referral.
Of course, that treatment is not actually free – it’s paid for by British taxpayers. The 2012 change in rules means that HIV sufferers can receive £20,000 of antiretroviral drugs every year.
Once HIV treatment is started, patients will probably need to take the medication for the rest of their lives. In total, the cost to the NHS will be up to £1 million per patient if they survive into old age. Not surprisingly, the policy of treating migrants with HIV has always been highly controversial.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2788843/immigrants-hiv-true-cost-nhs-international-health-service-treating-patients-come-killer-disease-asks-sue-reid.html#ixzz3biXKZzEj