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Wednesday 23rd
posted by Morning Star in Britain

Doctors and Labour come out against plans

by Steve Sweeney

PLANS to require patients to show their passports before receiving NHS treatment were condemned by doctors yesterday, while Labour warned that they could lead to “racial profiling” in hospitals.

The idea was announced by the Department of Health on Monday in a bid to claw back money from “foreign visitors.”

Department of Health spokesman Chris Wormald told the Commons public accounts committee on Monday that the NHS had got a “lot further to go” in reclaiming the money “before we could hand on heart say we are doing our duty to the taxpayer in this area.”

But the British Medical Association said that “showing your passport before undergoing treatment” was going too far and Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also attacked the plans, stressing: “NHS staff are not border guards.”

The announcement comes as the government stands accused of scaremongering over so-called “health tourism.”

Campaigners say that “unrecovered costs from treating foreign nationals account for less than 0.2 per cent of the NHS budget,” according to the most reliable figures.

Ms Abbott said: “The real problem here is government cuts. Instead, we are invited to believe that foreigners are a significant problem in the NHS, without much evidence.”

She predicted that, as a result of the proposal, “those who are believed to sound or look foreign will be profiled in order to receive treatment.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth blamed a “desperate squeeze on NHS finances” for the announcement. “The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of need, not free at the point of ID,” he said.

“The Tories are desperately trying to distract attention from their broken promises on funding for the NHS and social care,” he argued.

“Day by day, further details are coming out of plans drawn up in secret all over the country to slash services and withdraw treatments.”

Mr Ashworth called for increased funding ahead of today’s Autumn Statement, demanding that the government “give the NHS the money it needs and rule out what many fear is a secret Tory strategy to cut services.”

Labour has promised to scrap the ID requirement if it comes into force.