Wednesday, 27 March 2013

An International Health Service?

One of the debates in the House of Commons on Monday was on the subject of entitlement to NHS treatment. Frank Field asked the question 'what moves the Government intend to take to prevent the national health service becoming an international health service'. It sounds a good question as even if we have no direct knowledge of health tourism (I have) we all know that it is possible for NHS treatment to be received by those who are not entitled to it.

It is worth quoting Julian Huppert's contribution to the debate. 'The former public health Minister, Anne Milton, revealed in a written answer on 17 March 2011 that the sums not collected from overseas patients totalled less than £7 million a year. If we double that and double it again, as the Health Secretary suggests, that is £28 million. Private finance initiative schemes cost the NHS that much every two weeks. Which issue is more important in ensuring that we have a properly funded NHS?' However the principle that those who are not entitled to free NHS treatment should pay for it remains.

Dennis Skinner did not feel that we should be collecting this money. He said '...that those of a similar colour, of different colours and of different nationalities can change the bed sheets and operate, but woe betide them if they want to put their head on a pillow when they are ill. What hypocrisy.' Dennis obviously supports  multiculturalism, as I do, but he has missed the point in this debate. It isn't about race and it isn't hypocritical to support multiculturalism and oppose health tourism.

I also noticed comments on the same subject which were made on Facebook. Here's one that quotes Jeremy Hunt. ' "We need to deal with all those issues, and they are all failures of the last Government." ' but then goes on to add 'they must think we're stupid to keep coming out with that tired old line. Gutless shirkers of responsibility.' Well I am not a Jeremy Hunt supporter but he is right, and it is a strange comment considering that the government is now acting in order to prevent shirking of responsibility. 

There are many other comments that deserve a mention. 'Well said Mr Skinner, defiance is all that counts now!' I hope the person who made the comment (and Dennis) can understand that there should be some restraints on those who receive NHS treatment. After all, even those who are entitled are often denied for many reasons that are underscored by finance. However there is a problem if Dennis Skinner's supporters recognise misguided arguments as a reason for unbridled defiance.

Nye Bevan was also quoted in the Facebook comments. "The collective principle asserts that... no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means." Well Nye talks about societies in the plural. I expect that even he knew that societies would have to come to arrangements between themselves.

Change the world 

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