James O'Brien: Why Health Tourism Crackdown Won't Make A Bit Of Difference

6 February 2017, 11:25

James O'Brien

Are you angry at the money wasted on health tourism in the NHS? James O'Brien explains why the crackdown on it simply won't help at all.

The issue of health tourism rose again last week after TV documentary Hospital showed a pregnant Nigerian mother flying to the UK for treatment. And it was revealed that the UK is losing tens of millions of pounds per year on non-urgent treatment of foreign nationals.

James says he agrees we should get the money back, but says the constant argument over health tourism is distracting from the real issues with the NHS.

He said: "The proposal that overseas patients who need non-urgent treatment should be paying for it before they get it rather than us trying to recoup it after they get it... it's not even controversial. Let's make that absolutely clear from the beginning.

"I think you would struggle to find anybody who objects to the principle of this. A lot of people in the actual health service will be objecting to the practice, the practicalities of it, and the most important question of all which nobody's asked you this morning - would it actually cost more to do this than it would raise?

"Because if it's really the issue of funding and efficiency, that's the only question that actually matters.

"And they say: 'Yeah but you know there's a black baby in an incubator James, it's a black Nigerian baby in an incubator, my Gran can't get a bed.'

"Do you really think your gran would fit into an incubator in a post-natal intensive care unit?

"Did you know the Nigerian lady that was in the story the other day, two of her babies have been buried. Guys, we're British. We don't sit here looking at a grieving mother and ask ourselves what we can do to make her life worse. Do we?"