Friday, October 25, 2013

Tory Health Tourism Misinformation

Further to our earlier blog  UK Government Myths and Media Lies About Migrants and the NHS 

'Foreigners abusing system' claim has been contradicted by research that shows more people go overseas for treatment than arrive. 63,000 people from the country travelled to hospitals and clinics abroad in 2010, while considerably fewer, about 52,000 people, came here. Medical tourism is a lucrative source of income for the NHS, according to a major new study that contradicts many of the assumptions behind the government's announcement that it will clamp down on foreigners abusing the health service. The research flies in the face of assertions by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.

Eighteen hospitals – those deemed most likely to be making money from overseas patients – earned £42m in 2010, according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and York University. Medical tourists spent an estimated £219m on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transport in the UK. Those flying in to the UK include expat Britons living in countries such as Spain.  Some NHS hospitals earn substantial sums of money from medical tourists and others could join them in doing so. Great Ormond Street children's hospital earned £20.7m from foreign patients in 2010-11; Kings earned £7.9m and the Royal Brompton earned £7.4m.

The lead author of the study, Johanna Hanefeld, from the faculty of public health and policy at the LSHTM, said the government-commissioned research recently published was "much more across the government immigration agenda than anything to do with health". It took no account of the increasing global mobility of patients, some of whom are lucrative paying customers and others who are saving the NHS money by going abroad, says Hanefeld. "If we really want to address the issues around health tourism or patient mobility, we can't do it as one country," she said. "We would need international mechanisms."

The government documents also attempted to put a figure on the cost of healthcare for what they admitted were the "very uncertain" numbers of "irregular migrants". The government set out to look solely at costs of foreign patients and did not consider the possible revenues generated by these individuals, nor the impact on the NHS of UK residents being treated abroad.

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Leading Tory peers have accused the government of failing to provide evidence that people from other European Union countries are using the UK for "benefit tourism" at huge cost to the British taxpayer.

Lord Boswell, who chairs the European Union committee in the House of Lords, said in a letter to immigration minister Mark Harper, leaked to the Observer, that he was "concerned about the lack of data" that ministers had supplied to support their claims.

Boswell said figures provided to the committee in response to a previous call for evidence were "not particularly illuminating", and argued that the committee had been given clear figures from other sources that suggested the opposite – that EU migrants pay more into the economy than they take out.

The European commission is also growing increasingly frustrated with the UK government for claiming that "benefit tourism" is a massive problem while not supplying any verifiable data to support the claim.

EU officials believe the government is trying to create an impression that there is a problem for political reasons.