Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad data underpins flawed health tourism report

. . . is my latest piece for The Conversation and it can be found here. A brief excerpt:

"A new report into so-called “health tourism” makes for a shocking read. Not because the costs of migrants deemed to have travelled to Britain primarily to enjoy free NHS services on British taxpayers has spiralled to £2 billion, but because it exposes serious concern about the government playing politics with both immigration and the NHS.

Consider the facts. The government has yet to provide a reliable estimate of how many such migrants have actually used the NHS. In July, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted on the BBC Today programme that “the truth is we don’t know the number” of health tourists in Britain.

This failure to know the number of migrants benefiting from the NHS without contributing to its costs hasn’t prevented Hunt from claiming that health tourism costs the UK about £12m - a figure manufactured from the rounded up sum of £11.5m, which related to unpaid charges for treating migrants. When we talk about the costs of health tourism, what we’re actually talking about is any use of the NHS by migrants for any reason. And so we begin to expose the mythical health tourist problem.

The new report, published by the Department of Health, makes for interesting reading. Its purpose is clear: to provide a more reliable evidence-base for estimating the number of migrants using the NHS and associated costs . .  [READ FURTHER]"

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