Revelations that EU citizens don’t have to prove who they are before receiving free treatment on the NHS shows just how much the National Health Service has become the International Health Service, according to UKIP Health Spokesman, Louise Bours MEP.
As the debate on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU turns its attention to the NHS, a health minister has been forced to admit that GPs and hospitals must treat immigrants even if they do not produce an EU health card and refuse to provide any identification to show their entitlement. The news is a huge boost to those arguing the NHS is suffering as a result of the UK’s membership of the EU. Reacting to the government’s admission, Ms Bours said: “The government have tried to bury this bad news right from the start.
“It wasn’t even in Cameron’s renegotiation attempts because he clearly didn’t want the public to know that while we are in the EU anyone and everyone can come here, get treatment funded by the UK taxpayer, and then go home again without contributing a single penny to the cost.
“Doctors have been advised by the government not to ask if someone is entitled to treatment just in case it’s seen as being discriminatory, so basically, because of our arrangement with the EU anyone from anywhere in the world can come here and be treated at our expense.
“It has to stop. This is our NHS, not Europe’s or any other continent’s, and the fact that Cameron didn’t include it in the renegotiation is all the proof we need that the only way we can ensure we British taxpayers get the NHS we need and deserve, is to leave the EU.”
The admission came when a Euro-sceptic MP asked a Parliamentary Question about who can and cannot register for NHS treatment.
Health minister Alistair Burt answered: “Anyone can seek to register as an NHS patient with a GP practice by approaching one directly and submitting a written and signed application.
“A practice cannot legally refuse to register someone because they do not possess identification or documents.”
Recent figures also show that the UK has a poor record in claiming cost for treating EU nationals from other countries, as it is entitled to do.
This ‘health tourism gap’ means the UK is now paying out £15 for the healthcare costs of Britons who fall ill abroad for every £1 it gets back for NHS treatment of European visitors.
Ms Bours added: “Once you are registered with a GP you have access to the entire NHS, including hospitals.
“The law is that if you don’t live here long-term you are supposed to pay for any non-urgent or emergency care, but many hospitals assume that if you have a GP you are entitled to the full range of treatment, free.
“We do not want to turn medics into border guards. The government needs to get serious about the NHS for the sake of those of us who rely upon it, and that means ditching the EU.”