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Passport change would easily reduce number of NHS tourists

Further to the debate about NHS tourism I agree with Dr P Critchley: we should not be interrogating patients (Letter, June 23). I feel the problem lies squarely with the Government which can stop this 'tourism' overnight if it wants.

When visitors come to UK, their passport is stamped with an entry visa which clearly states that they are not allowed to take paid or unpaid employment. Why can't an extra line be added stating that they are not eligible for free NHS treatment? We could make it crystal clear that their entry visa may be cancelled if they are found to be abusing NHS services. Emergency treatment should be available only in an A&E department, where the patient may have to pay for it if it is for a pre-existing condition.

If we try getting medical services in any other European country they throw the rule book at us and ask for appropriate forms. If you have no forms, you have to pay; there is no choice. Every visitor is encouraged to take out travel insurance. How many of us ask for an eligibility certificate if a patient says he is from an EU country?

Let the Government make it clear that GPs are not obliged to treat overseas visitors. It should not be left to the discretion of the GP and no IOS payment should be made. If payment is due for medical services, the person who sponsors the visitor should pay.

Once word gets around, most visitors will take out travel insurance before they come to the UK and dare not seek free NHS treatment.

Most of us in the UK pretend to be compassionate good guys and feel that no visitor should get ill in this country. We overlook the question of eligibility and give free service as the visitors are our guests. Is it surprising that the UK is considered an easy target?

Dr Velu Chandran



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