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Migrants 'must pay' for NHS access

Some migrants will be made to contribute to the costs of running the NHS in a bid to stop 'health tourism', the government has announced. 

Currently, many non-EU migrants have the same access to the NHS as a permanent UK resident. 

However, the government feels that this approach is “generous” and rules, which aim to limit access to secondary care for non-EU visitors who plan to be in the UK for less than six months, are “inconsistently applied”. 

The money will then be used as a contribution towards NHS running costs. 

But people seeking asylum, humanitarian protection or temporary protection will not be subject to the charge.  

Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “We have been clear that the UK has a national health service, not an international health service. These proposals will ensure that migrants here temporarily make a fair contribution to the cost of health services in the UK. 

“The government is building a fairer immigration system which addresses the concerns of hardworking people.” 

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has revealed concerns over the Immigration Bill, however. 

Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive, said the Bill would penalise many temporary migrants who are working and paying tax in the UK. 

He said: “We know of many foreign nurses working in the UK who will fall within the definition of 'temporary migrant' and as such will be delivering services they themselves may have to pay twice to access.

“[We are] worried that extending charging to primary care could have serious implications for public health - particularly the health care of vulnerable groups, including children. It would be a serious calamity if deterring migrants from accessing primary care services ended up increasing pressures on over-stretched accident and emergency departments.   

“These proposed changes come before the Department of Health has issued any robust evidence about the financial burden on the NHS. The RCN is examining the details of the bill and will be raising our concerns throughout its passage.”