Responding to the government’s new plans to implement a system of upfront charges based on an assessment of a patient’s eligibility for NHS care, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said:
“It is right that we ensure all patients are eligible for NHS care and that we have in place a working system to recoup the cost of treatment from patients not ordinarily resident in the UK.
“However, it’s hard to see how these new proposals will operate in practice, especially as they are to implemented by law. There is no detail as to how upfront charging will be introduced from scratch in just three months in an NHS already unable to cope with normal operations. We need to be careful not to demonise overseas patients or sow chaos and confusion within the NHS. Doctors and nurses cannot be expected to arbitrarily decide whether a patient gets treatment or not.
“There is patchy evidence that this kind of system will achieve £500 million in savings and even if it did, this would not in any way solve the enormous funding crisis in our health service that the government has for too long ignored. Ministers should not mislead the public into thinking this will result in a cash windfall for the NHS, but must address the wider funding shortfall in the NHS, which has left it understaffed and struggling to care for its patients.”