By Nora Johnson • 30 March 2015 • 8:58
HEALTH TOURISTS: Should understand NHS treatment is not free.
I AM angry. Again. So angry I need to lie down in a dark room for a bit to calm down. Meanwhile, why not flick ahead to the crossword page or go and make that cup of coffee…
Hey, me again. Apologies for the short break but pleased to report my blood pressure’s just about stabilised. But why so angry? The reason is the article I just read about yet another ‘health tourist.’
Caroline Nyadzayo, an advertising executive in Zimbabwe, is still being chased for £3,000 after giving birth in a Norfolk hospital way back in 2013 – all part of a £62 million unpaid bill for health tourism.
One London hospital trust alone is owed more than £17 million. One patient owes over £420,000, several patients over £100,000 for dialysis, bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy while another £15,000 for treatment for alcoholism!
NHS treatment is not ‘free.’ It’s paid for by the UK taxpayer and a ‘health tourist’ like Ms Nyadzayo isn’t one. She’ll never repay a penny and doubtless will be back again for the next birth.
Now, any Brit knows that payment in advance for medical treatment, or proof of ability to pay via medical insurance, is the norm in most other countries. People like Caroline Nyadzayo go to Britain with the sole purpose of taking advantage of the NHS – knowing they don’t have to pay upfront a huge incentive. Unless the individual falls ill during their visit, the NHS should insist on payment first and treatment second.
Health administrators need to be much more vigilant and proactive in recouping these costs as a matter of principle. Especially at a time of strict constraint on budgets in the public sector – with the NHS itself on life support.
What’s particularly interesting about these unpaid bills, however, is the fact that these so-called ‘visitors’ apparently remain resident in the UK for a considerable period of time in order to receive continuous medical treatment. You really have to wonder if they receive full benefits and free housing for the duration, too.
Is it really surprising that individuals like the Zimbabwean ‘health tourist’ above effectively ‘steal’ from the British taxpayer when the UK’s International Health Service is not only still keeping the door open for them but carrying them over the threshold?
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Landscape of Lies,’ ‘Retribution,’ ‘Soul Stealer,’ ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89;£0.79) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.
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Nora is the author of popular psychological suspense and crime thrillers and a freelance journalist.
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