- Care may be restricted to those who have lived in UK more than a year
- MPs say scheme only works if those entitled to free care can prove it
Proposals for an NHS card have been sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Britons could have to carry an ‘entitlement card’ to access free NHS care as part of a crackdown on health tourists, it emerged yesterday.
David Cameron is considering plans to restrict free healthcare for immigrants to those who have lived here for more than a year, amid fears the cash-strapped NHS has become the ‘Global Health Service’.
Reforms under discussion could mean immigrants having to wait six months or even a year before being granted habitual residency and therefore hospital care.
But MPs say the scheme can only work if those entitled to free care can prove it. This would involve them presenting a card at the point of treatment.
However, the idea could spark civil liberty concerns akin to the opposition to Labour’s plans to impose an identity card.
And any plans to change the habitual residency test could be controversial. The European Commission is already unhappy that the UK has imposed such a test to prevent immigrants gaining access to all benefits and would be likely to oppose a plan to extend the test to entitlement to NHS care.
Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, and Nicholas Soames, Tory MP for Mid Sussex, who co-chairman a cross-party parliamentary group on balanced migration, have written a letter to Jeremy Hunt to outline their proposal. They told the Health Secretary to ‘get this situation dealt with very soon’ to avoid a public backlash.
The idea would be welcomed by many doctors who say they find it difficult to ask people whether they are entitled to NHS care for fear of appearing racist.
Conservative plans to clamp down on immigrants’ access to free healthcare will be seen as an another attempt by the party to steal a march on UKIP after their second place in last week’s Eastleigh by-election.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed they pushed the Tories into third because David Cameron was too busy talking about issues such as wind turbines and gay marriage rather than immigration.
Mr Cameron has confirmed previous reports that he is backing plans to clamp down on immigrants’ access to free healthcare. He wants to do this by changing the ‘habitual residency test’, which is used to refuse certain benefits to immigrants. At present, it gives full access to NHS care to anyone permanently resident in the UK.
In addition, hospitals will be compelled to enforce current rules which mean tourists and others who have no right to free care – including failed asylum seekers and illegal immigrants – are charged for any services they receive on the NHS.
A source close to Mr Hunt said there was concern that the NHS was being exploited by ‘more and more’ people from overseas, putting a strain on services.
‘The National Health Service is becoming the global health service,’ the source said. ‘We are looking at the way in which services are open to people. You have to be ordinarily resident to access healthcare.
‘We have to have a look at that and whether there is a prospect of changing that. We are looking in a bit more detail at the contributions you need [to have paid] to be entitled to free healthcare.’
The habitual residence test is used to decide whether migrants from the EU and elsewhere are eligible for certain benefits.
Last month Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he wanted to see the test extended to all handouts, so that no one can claim a benefit unless they can show they have rented a home here for at least a year.
Ministers want to get to grips with the issue before the expected influx of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians next year once EU restrictions are lifted.
Nearly 1,200 people have starved to death in NHS hospitals because ‘nurses are too busy to feed patients’ IS
- or every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate
- In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition
- Department of Health branded the figures ‘unacceptable’ and said the number of unannounced inspections will increase
As many as 1,165 people starved to death in NHS hospitals over the past four years fuelling claims nurses are too busy to feed their patients.
The Department of Health branded the figures ‘unacceptable’ and said the number of unannounced inspections by the care watchdog will increase.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics following a Freedom of Information request, for every patient who dies from malnutrition, four more have dehydration mentioned on their death certificate.
Critics say nurses are too busy to feed patients and often food and drink are placed out of reach of vulnerable people.
In 2011, 43 patients starved to death and 291 died in a state of severe malnutrition, while the number of patients discharged from hospital suffering from malnutrition doubled to 5,558.
Dianne Jeffrey, chairwoman of Malnutrition Task Force, condemned the statistics.
She told The Sunday Express: ‘Too many are paying the price with their lives while being deprived of the basic right to good nutrition, hydration and support.’
Board members Eleanor Chumley-Roberts and Dr Lyn Hulme are to step down from the trust that was at the centre of the Stafford Hospital scandal.
It has also been announced that Mid-Staffordshire may be the first foundation trust to be put into administration.
Eleanor Chumley-Roberts (left) and Dr Lyn Hulme (right) are unhappy that they had no input into the decision to put the trust in administration
Monitor, the watchdog that regulates trusts, said it was considering the move in order to ‘safeguard services’ for local patients.
A public inquiry into the trust said that patients had experienced ‘appalling’ care between 2005 and 2009.
It said that the trust had cared more about cost control than the quality and safety of the care it gave.
Mid Staffordshire health trust is in control of Stafford Hospital, where an investigation showed substandard care resulted in hundreds of deaths.
The families of patients involved in the Stafford Hospital scandal protested outside a meeting of NHS bosses this week and renewed their calls for the resignation of chief executive Sir David Nicholson.
A dozen people held placards with Sir David’s photograph accompanied by the words ‘Resign’, ‘The man with no shame’ and ‘Too many deaths, no accountability’.
Sir David, who has faced calls to quit since the Francis report revealed issues a Stafford Hospital, was instead given a vote of confidence.
The trust has been the subject of three inquiries in four years.
NHS hospitals have also stood accused of fiddling figures to mask the numbers of patients dying needlessly.
A major investigation is now taking place at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Greater Manchester, where acting chief executive Dr Jackie Bene, stepped down.
The trust had had one of the highest mortality rates in the country.
But in 2011, the figures suddenly dropped by 10 per cent and the trust was named as one of only about 50 in the country with ‘lower than expected’ death rates.
But it is feared that since 2001, an estimated 2,000-plus patients may have died unnecessarily at the trust.
Vulnerable Martin Ryan starved to death in an NHS hospital 26 days without proper nourishment in 2005.
The 43-year-old, who had Down’s syndrome, was admitted to Kingston Hospital after he suffered a stroke which left him unable to swallow.
But a ‘total breakdown in communication’ meant he was never fitted with a feeding tube.
The case was highlighted by Mencap in 2009. An internal inquiry by the hospital found that doctors had thought nurses were feeding Mr Ryan, from Richmond, south-west London, through a tube.
By the time they found out this was not the case, he was too weak for an operation. He died in agony five days later.
Worcestershire Acute NHS Hospital Trust was forced to pay out more than £400,000 last year in compensation after a patient starved to death and another was left unwashed for 11 weeks.
In one of the worst ever cases of multiple NHS failings, patients were left begging for water or left hungry after trays of food were dumped too far from their reach.
The 84-year-old starved to death in 2009 after being admitted following a fall.
The man, who has not been identified at the request of his relatives, could only manage certain foods, but he was not fed properly and died two months later.
On his death certificate, inanition, a clinical term for starvation, was recorded as the cause of death.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘Every NHS patient should expect to be looked after properly in hospital.
‘It is completely unacceptable if patients go hungry or are malnourished.
‘To help make sure patients get the right care – and to root out bad practice – the Care Quality Commission has increased the number of unannounced inspections that it undertakes, and soon it will publish its findings from a series of inspections looking specifically at dignity and nutrition.
‘We are also investing £100 million on IT so nurses can spend more time with patients, not paperwork.
‘That means nursing rounds where senior nurses will have more time to check that patients are comfortable, are helped to eat and drink, and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.’