In the UK the phrase health tourism is taken by your average reader of the UK’s government’s attack chiuaua newspaper the Daily Mail (DM) to mean the swarm of people from non caucasian countries who fly into the UK to take advantage of free medical care. A lot of these people are from former countries of the British Empire and are actually entitled to free healthcare but DM journalists won’t know that.
Disgusting, say most hard working Joes and Joannas, and their non tax paying friends of the Daily Mail readership the benefit claiming non working Wayne and Waynetta Slobs for health tourism clearly explains to them all why they can never get an appointment with their GP.
There is a far more incidious version of health tourism which largely involves the elderly who have a migratory lifestyle. When it is cold, in winter, many of them swarm South to take advantage of the summer, or warmer temperatures, there but as temperatures drop down south they return to the motherland.
When it comes comes to fraud, dishonesty, lying, cheating and shafting the NHS (and the benefits system) in the UK they put the likes of Wayne and Waynetta Slob to shame because they are zen masters at it.
A few examples of health tourists and their abuse of the NHS are presented below. These are not isolated one offs for most are repeat offences time and time again albeit by different patients.
NHS shaft #1
I am going to live in country X in my villa/with my relatives for six months and need all my medication.
The DoH recommends only 3 months supply and technically you should be removed from our lists after 3 months.
You won’t do that will you doctor? I have been with you for years (abroad) . . .
Yes we would and no we won’t give you more than 3 months.
NHS shaft #2
I am just back from 6 months in my villa in a country where healthcare is not free and I am only back here for a month.
I would like a hip replacement, cardiac bypass, varicose vein surgery, a stairlift fitting and my council tax reduction form signing and someone to wheel my wheelie bin on account of my “disability”. Can I have all of them now?
And what do you reckon your chances are? Did you say that you have just flown back unaided from Australia for the 2nd time this year and driven from the airport yourself despite your “disability” in an unmodified car and were on your way to a round of golf?
NHS shaft #3
I have lived abroad for 5 years and before I went away I was referred to see a surgeon. Now I am back I MUST go to the top of the waiting list because I haven’t heard from them after 5 years.
The reason you haven’t heard from them was not that your GP hadn’t referred you, as you claimed, it was the fact that you took advantage of another foreign healthcare system and did not attend your appointment in the UK despite it being sent to and a second follow up one as well.
5 years ago.
Although you are “entitled” to these services you are more than happy to abuse them because they are free and as such you get the special priviledge of going to the bottom of the waiting list.
NHS shaft #4
I am in wherever and I am ringing you at huge personal cost on my mobile and have a medical problem. Can you send a prescription to my relative at home for my acute illness based on my own diagnosis with Google assist but I cannot find a doctor anywhere here (for free).
My relative will cash the prescription for free in my name and send me the drugs.
No if you are not in the UK, and are in central Berlin, the responsilibity for your healthcare is that of the country you are resident in.
This may unfortunately involve a charge and a degree of responsibility on your part to prove that you are actually ill, which you don’t have to in the UK when you see a doctor.
Although a prescription is a freebie to most people (85%+) in the UK it can prove very expensive to any doctor who prescribes on the above basis for they have not seen the patient but they are responsible for any prescription that they sign.
NHS shaft #5
I have decided that the NHS is crap and am paying to go to abroad to have surgery there for my condition. In order to save money I would like you to perform all the preoperative bloods, a chest x-ray and an ECG and declare me fit for an anaesthetic in 3 months time.
We are GPs not anaesthetists and the responsilility for declaring you fit for anaesthesia in 3 months time is not ours now it will be one of our anaesthesiology colleagues then who pay an arm and a leg for medical protection insurance so we would suggest you pay the going rate and not misuse the NHS which you think is carp.
The recent spate of bank holidays and school holidays has led to other forms of health tourism other than the silver shafters for they have educated their ill begat spawn on health tourism these being some of the most common:
I am going on holiday tomorrow this is an EMERGENCY. I need to be better before I go on holiday.
So I MUST have an urgent appointment for a seriously trivial self limiting illness that MIGHT ruin my holiday something that I have paid for and is valuable to me unlike your time.
The corollary of this “serious” case of health tourism is this:
I have had this while on holiday but once healthcare is free I need an urgent consult for this rash I have had for 3 months while in Thailand and I have only just landed after my 16 hour flight. Is this painless ulcer on my genitals of any consequence but I am not worried regarding this?
We are more worried about those you have abused to get these symptoms you disgusting overweight smelly middle aged individual resplenant in unwashed T-shirt, shorts, flip flops and socks. We can treat such sex pats as you for your syphilis for free but who is going to treat those you have abused to get you Thai red chilli rash and painless genital ulcer?
No doubt you will be going again later this year?
I was ill overseas and had to pay for healthcare there (never?). This form needs filling in URGENTLY for it cost me $15000 in the USA which made me better and I had a GP consultation followed by full hospital care and investigation including full blood tests/x-rays/CT scan/MRI all within 6 hours.
And you actually had to pay for healthcare something you can claim back on insurance that would have taken 6 months in the UK to tell you there was nothing wrong just a minor infection?
Of course cost is always urgent while complete investigation is always essential if not needed but unfortunately expensive especially when the individual who receives all of this medical excellence and no treatment realizes how much healthcare ACTUALLY costs for then cost is an EMERGENCY for the first time in their adult life after years of them and their family abusing their GP.
Whilst it may be URGENT to you the more you tell us it is URGENT to fill in your form the longer it will take. We have patients to see who are not better unlike you but unlike the special ones like you who have actually had to pay for healthcare those that we see in the UK do not.
But you are importantly different aren’t you?
I need an urgent appointment because I am going on holiday and want to enjoy it so I thought I would see if you have my scan result from yesterday and they told me the result would be back in a week have you got it?
So this was an urgent consult, so you could selfishly enjoy your holiday, deny someone who might be ill an appointment even though you were told how long it would take?
Let us advise you how this scan and the lack of a result will increase your travel insurance premium and reduce your insurance cover . . .
We wonder whether Brits abroad must be the biggest pains in the proverbial a*se (sorry a grunt word slipped out there) of any healthcare organisation overseas for they fail to realize that healthcare is a very expensive thing.
Healthcare is not the same as buying a pack of fags from a corner shop where you have to pay money up front to someone who serves you who could proberly be trained to do this in a day or two but the average Brit values their fags and booze more highly than healthcare when abroad as they are cheaper (than local healthcare) and so using a “market” model must be consumed with extreme prejudice.
We recall in our naïve years in the UK remembering a scene in a movie where someone asks a patient before they are treated if they are Blue Cross or Blue Shield in terms of insurance before they can get treated. At that stage we thought the NHS was great for patients did not have to get asked this in order to get treated they just were. When you work in healthcare in the UK you realize how little it is valued because it is free. The last Party trivialised healthcare to the point where you can see a highly qualified healthcare professional on the basis of (political) WANT not on the basis of (true) medical NEED within 48 hours.
So if you cannot get an appointment when YOU WANT it, rather than you actually NEED it, remember others may be blocking your access based on their selfish WANT and not wanting to pay for anything else than their holiday. In the recent past this selfish group has been up a third of all “emergency” consultations.
And they think the young are disrespectful idle benefit defrauding scum. The young here in the UK have such excellent role models when it comes to swinging the lead.
Praise be to the Party for the winter fuel allowance which in Barbados must be good for a good few duty free G&Ts rather than a few extra peat briquettes in the burner. GP practices and A&E departments near to airports will know what we mean.
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Northern Doc was once a blog originally written by a group of GPs in Northernshire and expressed their experiences and frustrations of working in today's NHS. The pieces were compiled at social meetings after work and published anonymously in a once free society. Following the Government's Medical Council clamp down on freedom of thought, speech and expression by doctors and our belief that the views of a few doctors DO NOT represent the views of the profession as a whole their views will now be written by and published by a journalist who has previously contributed to the blog by virtue of social ties. Any inference that the word Doc means a doctor is now purely coincidental. This is as of the 22 April 2013.