Whilst "free at the point of use" is a fundamental value of the NHS one West London hospital is bucking up its ideas about treating foreign patients who are not entitled to free healthcare on the NHS by employing a "stablize and discharge" policy.
At West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth, ineligible patients are admitted and seen by 3 consultants who determine when their condition has stabilised. At that point, the patient is given a quote for further treatment and, if unable to pay, is discharged rather than nursed back to full health regardless.
At a time when value for money in the NHS is very much in question, such a novel hardline approach may be welcomed as only right and necessary to limit "health tourism" and abuse of the system we all pay our taxes into. But, turning ineligible sick people away from hospitals inevitably thrusts them on the mercy of charities or other community services. Médecins du Monde runs Project London, which works to provide basic medical care to illegal immigrants, asylum seekers or others whose residency status is uncertain. Fundamentally an advocacy group it also provides primary health care through a volunteer team in East London. Its latest report suggests that "health tourism" is not the parasitic spectre it is made out to be in the press and that actually the system could bear the burden of "irregular migrants" having access to care.
The government is currently reviewing access to primary and secondary care for all foreign nationals.
Check out Mark Gould's article in the Health Service Journal for a fuller analysis of this issue.
Image courtesy of Tulip Diva's Flickrstream.