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Doctors vote to stop charging overseas patients for NHS treatment

BMA will lobby government to overhaul the system

Doctors have voted to stop billing overseas patients for treatment at NHS hospitals.

Medics backing the British Medical Association (BMA) motion said charging made health staff complicit in racism and racial profiling.

Up to 500 delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of abandoning the fees at the BMA’s annual conference in Belfast.

However, Conservative MPs said opening up the NHS to the rest of the world was reckless when its resources were so stretched. Health tourism is thought to cost between £200m and £2bn a year. 

According to the Daily Mail, the BMA will now lobby the Department of Health to overhaul the charging system.

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said: “The BMA is completely out of touch with public opinion on this issue. There is nothing racist about charging international tourists for the care they receive over here. Every pound spent treating health tourists is a pound not spend on British citizens.”

Dr Jackie Appleby, who proposed the motion, said charging immigrants for NHS care was a form of racial profiling and not cost-effective. 

“The cost of treating migrants and overseas visitors on the NHS is a drop in the ocean compared to the overall budget. The cost of health tourism is disputed. It’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things,” she argued.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “British taxpayers support the NHS, and it is only right that overseas visitors also make a contribution to our health service so everyone can receive urgent care when they need it. We have exemptions in place to protect public health and the most vulnerable patients.”