But is this true?
The Guardian ran a recent piece examining the numbers here.
However, it appears that the UK Government does not, in fact, have evidence of health tourism. This was uncovered in a written question presented to the Home Office by the Revd Lord (Roger) Roberts, a Liberal Democrat Peer. He asks:
"To ask Her Majesty’s Government what evidence they have about the impact of health tourism on the NHS budget."
The Government's reply is striking. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Quality) for Health, the Conservative Peer Earl Howe states:
"The Department is not able to make a reliable estimate of the impact on the National Health Service budget of providing NHS care to visitors and migrants who were not entitled to free treatment, including those known as health tourists, because the NHS does not currently have robust enough systems in place to identify every such patient.
The Department has commissioned some independent professional research to better understand the extent of the use, and abuse, of the NHS by migrants and visitors and is currently consulting on proposals to change the rules of entitlement to free NHS care and to ensure the system is better able to identify chargeable patients and recover costs."
So it now appears -- confirmed days after Hunt's original claims -- that the Government, in fact, has no real evidence of health tourism nor can it offer any official view on what it might cost, if anything.
Saying one thing to grab headlines, but then hoping no one - such as the sleuth-like Lord Rogers - will uncover that the Emperor has no clothes (or at least none they can confirm). Surprising? Not from this Government....