Last week’s announcement from the government, that the NHS will now charge foreign patients upfront for non-emergency treatment, is the latest display of scapegoating immigrants for the problems the NHS faces by the Tories.
NHS England finds itself with a £22bn ‘black hole’ in its budget for the next five years and currently holds a budget deficit of £2.45bn – a number that continues to climb dramatically every year due to funding cuts. All of this has led to the Red Cross declaring the NHS’ A&E departments to be in a state comparable to a ‘humanitarian crisis,’ with the charity having to step in to assist A&E departments across England in order to transport patients home. The government’s target for A&E departments to see patients within four hours has become an impossible task for some hospitals this winter, with the percentage of patients seen within four hours reaching a record low at 86% and the number of people waiting twelve hours for a hospital bed has doubled over the last year to more than 2,500. It’s a bleak picture, but blaming immigrants for ‘health tourism’ is not the answer.
If professional spin doctor Jeremy Hunt wants to find someone to blame for the current crisis NHS England faces, he only needs to look in the mirror. Health tourism is barely an issue when you compare it to the scale of pressure government cuts are placing upon NHS England. Nigel Farage has claimed that health tourism costs the NHS £2bn a year – that’s a lie. It wasn’t convenient for the meerkat-lookalike to mention that we recoup most of that £2bn figure from foreign governments and, in fact, estimates have placed the cost of intentional health tourism at around £110 million-£280 million. Can the alt-right stop using alternative facts to fit their ridiculous narratives please? Just for once? Please?
Yet again, the focus placed upon health tourism is more scapegoating of immigrants for the problems caused by politicians in Westminster. The official Leave campaign, during the EU referendum, were especially guilty for this by airing adverts depicting a crowded NHS hospital if the UK remains in the EU, contrasted with a perfect, pristine and flawless service provided in a hospital if we leave the EU. The honest truth is this: there would be no NHS budget crisis or stupidly long waiting times in A&E departments, or a shortage of NHS nurses, if the Tories funded the damn thing sufficiently and stopped forcing budget cuts upon NHS England so that they can give corporations a tax cut. The Tories claim you can only have a strong NHS with a strong economy, yet they aren’t delivering a strong NHS – or a strong economy for that matter.
For years, the Tories have been slashing budgets left, right and centre in almost every governmental department but they need to realise at some point that you can’t keep cutting and still expect to maintain the same quality of service. Then they claim budget cuts aren’t being made and they are investing millions into the NHS this year, but that’s not exactly true in real terms. Think tank, The King’s Fund, estimates that funding will only increase by 1.3% between 2010-2020, which is well below the average of the past several decades, where NHS funding increased on average at 3.6%. The Tories are cutting NHS funding each year so it is unable to keep up with the pressures of an ageing and growing population.
It’s time for the Tories to stop making excuses for a problem they’ve created and it’s also time we stop blaming immigrants for every problem the UK faces. Don’t be fooled by the focus placed on health tourism, it’s a distraction to shift blame to another party because the Tories know full well that their cuts are creating the crisis in the NHS. Don’t trust the things you read on buses either. £350 million a week to the NHS anyone?
(Image courtesy of The Telegraph)