The British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed ‘serious concerns’ over government plans to charge non-EU migrants for healthcare, slamming the plans as ‘impractical’ and ‘uneconomic’.
Earlier this year the government proposed an extended charging system for migrants and short-term visitors, in a bid to stop ‘health tourism’ and save money for the NHS.
The government has suggested charges of up to £200 per year for access to the health service.
However, the BMA said there is no evidence that the income from charging visitors would cover the increased bureaucracy needed to administer the system.
The government had suggested that general practices would have to check the status of each patient at registration, acting as a barrier to other care.
But the BMA believe this would be inconvenient, especially as there is no explanation of what documentation patients would need to prove permanent residency.
“The NHS does not have the infrastructure or resources to administrate a charging system that is not likely to produce enough revenue to cover the cost of setting up its own bureaucracy,” said Dr Mark Porter, chair of the BMA Council.
He added: “The NHS does not need more administrators; it should be spending its money on caring for patients.”
And Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP committee said: “We have seen with the recent NHS 111 debacle what happens when an ill thought out policy is rushed through without proper consideration of the practical and clinical implications.
“Ministers need to learn from recent experiences and work with healthcare professionals to find workable solutions to this issue.”