Tuesday, 24 October 2017

No defence for healthcare tourism


Not entirely convinced by opposition to measures designed to stop health tourism. To be clear nobody is going to be denied immediate critical care; you're not going to get thrown out of A&E bleeding to death if you cannot prove who you are. Seems to me the people who will largely be inconvenienced are those not entitled to 'free' treatment, which is pretty much the point, and almost certainly the source of the disgruntlement.

I know people wail about the bureaucracy of it all, but you do actually need some sort of administration to get most things done. Collecting basic identity information about patients is the necessary first step in all medical treatment. Every time I go to my GP or the hospital I'm asked to confirm my details. The first time I visit a new facility I'm asked to verify who I am. This is good practice, not because it prevents health tourists, but because it gives medical professionals access to information they need to treat you properly.

It's really not too much trouble for most people to verify who they are if they want ongoing healthcare. Admittedly, there may be some challenging circumstances, some patients have special needs, but binning off faux-moralistic preaching there are processes in place to deal with them. We may not have a utopian system, but it deals with millions of vulnerable people every year without bodies piling up in the streets (bodies blocking beds is far more common).

The real problem seems to be the myth of 'free' NHS treatment, which is precisely what attracts health tourists. Those who moan about denying 'free' treatment to ineligible patients too easily forget it's not really 'free'; someone always has to pay! People up and down the country have to work hard to fund the system, a system that is always, and always will be, financially challenged.

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