Healing the world
Sir: We most warmly commend the courage of Professor Meirion Thomas (‘The next NHS scandal’, 23 February) in lifting the lid on the appalling abuse of the NHS by foreign visitors. It has been going on for years but has been covered up by the culture of fear that has pervaded that organisation. We stand ready to support the professor in parliament if that should prove necessary.
Regrettably, the present position is even worse than he described. The relevant quango (the Primary Care Commissioning group) issued instructions last July that GPs must accept an application for registration from any foreign visitor who is here for more than 24 hours as well as from all illegal immigrants. Thereafter the screening system for access to secondary care in hospitals is, as he describes, utterly feeble.
We accept that it is not the task of doctors, still less medical receptionists, to decide on eligibility. That is why we have proposed that specialist offices be set up to issue entitlement cards for access to primary or secondary care in England.
This whole matter has been ‘out to consultation’ since August 2004. It is truly scandalous that it has still not been dealt with. As the financial pressures on the NHS intensify, access to primary care that is open to the whole world will stretch public tolerance to the limit.
The Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP
The Rt Hon Frank Field DL MP
Co-Chair of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration
Aid for foreign patients
Sir: I can’t really sympathise with Professor Meirion Thomas’s reluctance to treat foreign patients whose only options are to come to England or die. It does seem rather churlish to send them away when the NHS is propped up by foreign doctors, many from third-world countries where medics are desperately needed.