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Consultation on ‘health tourism’ launched

7 August 2013

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Amid concerns the NHS has been “overly generous” with providing treatment to non-EU migrants, a government consultation has been launched. 

The letter accompanying the consultation’s launch claims that the UK taxpayer is “unfairly bearing the cost” of temporary migrants. 

The Department of Health will be looking into how well the current charging system for overseas visitors works, setting out proposals for reforming the system, which includes improved registering and tracking. 

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The government believes migrants should come to the UK for the right reason – to contribute to our society rather than simply taking from it. And the forthcoming Immigration Bill will introduce measures to make this happen.” 

The Immigration Bill aims to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to live in the UK while ensuring that legal migrants make a fair contribution to services. 

May said: “The need to control immigration and protect public services will be built into our benefits system, the NHS, our housing system and the wider provision of services across government.” 

Currently, secondary care has the power to charge non-residents for services, but primary and community care is generally provided for free. 

The government claims that the UK has a significant problem with health tourism, based on “considerable anecdotal evidence”.