New NHS passport policy to affect all expats living in UK

Published:  1 Nov at 6 PM
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A new rule affecting millions of expats living in the UK slipped in under the media’s radar earlier this week.

Colloqially entitled the Passport Policy, it forces all expats needing hospital services to prove their immigration status or pay upfront for treatment. The rule seems to be part of a government cost-cutting strategy, but is likely to cause major problems for those affected.

For the past several years, medical tourism has been constantly blamed for accelerating problems within the NHS. Formerly the envy of the world, the free healthcare service has attracted increasing criticism on many fronts including failure to recognise potentially fatal conditions such as sepsis and MRSA infections, ever-increasing A&E waiting times and early discharges of seriously ill patients due to bed-blocking.

The cost of maintaining the service has spiralled over the last few years, with the blame being placed firmly on medical tourism, although NHS executives have done nothing about drug companies’ extortionate charges for their products. The new rule appears to be a cost-cutting exercise, but isn’t likely to make any difference to the state of the ailing social health service.

According to reports, medical tourism costs the NHS more than one billion sterling every year, but governmental soundbites won’t cover up the damage the new law may cause.
Protest group Patients before Passports point out the stress caused to medical professionals attempting to treat their patients as well as the plight of those who need emergency assistance and are unaware of the need to supply proof. An environment of mistrust will become established, with those most at risk the huge number of trafficking victims at present in the UK.

Britain’s immigration system is horrendously slow, with extended waiting times for visas and citizenship taking years to clear rather than months. Sudden serious illnesses or accidents in those whose proof is not yet available could result in disablement or even death for patients without the funds for private treatment. At present, EU expats are still covered although genuine tourists may not be, but the post-Brexit period might well be a different story.
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