We hear a great deal about the wonders of the National Health Service and how it must not be allowed to fold up. In fact, the NHS has been the symbol of Britain almost since its inception soon after World War Two.
I have ranted before about the money that is being wasted within the service on inflated salaries for pen pushers in back rooms and the fact that some frontline professionals are allowed to retire on ill heath grounds with a fat pension, then come back as consultants – an iniquitous and highly corrupt practice in my opinion,
Now it emerges that overseas patients have left the NHS with more than a hundred and fifty million pounds owing in unpaid bills. It is estimated that this money could pay for six thousand extra nurses. Twenty-two thousand heart bypass operations or just under five thousand junior doctors.
So why on earth is this allowed damnit?! Surely these people should be chased up and if necessary, brought to Court? If you or I don’t pay a bill, we are chased and prosecuted. I realise that many patients probably jump on the next flight to their homeland, but in this day and age of instant communication between police forces (I can’t bring myself to be politically correct and call them services!) it cannot be too difficult to chase them up.
But no, it seems there is a new-found reluctance among frontline staff to chase payments, with doctors’ leaders saying that their obligation to charge overseas patients is ‘racist’ and deters vulnerable groups from seeking help.
It is the National Health Service damnit and those of us who use it have paid into it throughout our working careers. It is NOT an International Health Service so there have to be charges for overseas visitors. Why should my hard-earned money pay for rich health tourists from Nigeria or elsewhere?
Many other unentitled patients may have had free treatment too, as staff presumed they were UK residents or chose to turn a blind eye as part of a new drive from within the service.
This is despite tough new guidance issued by the Department of Health at the end of 2017 instructing staff to properly identify overseas visitors by asking for passports and utility bills, and to hand out invoices before starting treatment.
It seems though that these stricter rules are strongly opposed by doctors’ leaders, including the British Medical Association, with some members describing them as racist. Oh come on! One pressure group called Docs Not Cops is actively discouraging staff from handing out bills and urges them to challenge colleagues if they are seen to check patients’ passports. Other influential bodies including the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health have warned that the charges will deter vulnerable pregnant women and mothers with sick children from seeking help.
That is pusillanimous claptrap damnit! One hundred and fifty million quid could go a very long way in paying for vast improvements to an already faltering system. Organisations like the BMA are always the first to say the NHS needs more money, so surely they can help deliver that by helping to ensure these large sums of money are collected and put back into the system.
By law only patients classed as ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK – living here for at least six months and paying taxes – are entitled to free NHS care in hospitals.
I mentioned Nigeria, not because I was singling out that country with its oil-rich millionaires but because one hospital is still chasing a bill of more than half a million pounds from a Nigerian mother who gave birth to quadruplets in 2016.
She had originally flown to Chicago in order to have her babies but was turned away by US officials who claimed she would be unable to afford the healthcare costs. So she came to Britain where this country’s politically correct establishment did the necessary and delivered the babies.
Hospital staff have estimated that the total bill for her complicated delivery and subsequent care of the babies amounted to well over the half million stipulated, but presumably nobody wanted to be perceived as racist, so Priscilla (bless her) was able to go home and now her whereabouts is unknown.
How much longer is this crazy state of affairs going to be allowed to go on? Surely our mealy-mouthed politicians should be making a stand, but apart from one or two Tory dissenters from the politically correct brigade, Parliament is ominously silent.
I mentioned the purchase of essays by university students yesterday and it seems that this applies to medical schools as well. Thousands of student doctors and nurses are paying other academics to write their university essays.
Hundreds of shadowy websites peddle essays on all topics from asthma to cancer, allowing student medics to avoid writing essays themselves. Dr Thomas Lancaster of Imperial College London said that this calls into question the integrity of NHS staff and raises concerns about other forms of malpractice.
‘The real danger is that doctors who have cheated go on to other forms of unscrupulous behaviour,’ he said. ‘They are developing a lack of integrity while at university.’
To hell with that line Dr Lancaster. Surely it is far more worrying that the doctor treating you or me might have bought his or her degree and in reality, know nothing about how to effect a cure.
The NHS has been good to me in the past, but I have paid for it and the more I learn about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans going on, the less I trust the service.
I might have told this story before in these pages, but way back in the early eighties when Zimbabwe was trying to find its feet, I spoke to a couple of junior doctors from Britain who as part of their training had completed a stint at Mpilo hospital in Bulawayo.
“What did you think of our medical facilities?” I asked and one of them rolled his eyes.
“Don’t get sick,” was his advice and the same is beginning to apply in modern Britain.
On another tack, I have never really known what to make of Jeremy Paxman. He has always cut an abrasive figure but while I have sometimes cringed for his ‘victims’ in interviews, I do enjoy his scribbling for its wit and deep inner humour.
This week he laid into the state of Parliament and called the three most recent prime ministers the worst in modern times.
Paxman lambasted that pompous prat Cameron over the 2016 referendum and his subsequent flight then described Mother Maybe as a ‘cornucopia of failure.’
Speaking about Boris Johnson, Paxman told the Radio Times: ‘Now we find ourselves required to entrust the country to a man you wouldn’t trust alone with your sister.’
Well said on all three counts Mr Paxman, but judging by the rest of the current crop of politicians, Boris is the only hope we have.
Scary isn’t it?