Health tourists told to pay up or be sent home in new NHS crackdown on foreigners
An empty threat. There are 400,000 illegal immigrants in Britain who have been told to go home but who stay on regardless
A crackdown on so-called health tourists was announced by ministers yesterday. Foreigners who have failed to pay NHS bills of £1,000 or more will be kicked out of the country and banned from returning until the debt is paid.
Visitors are supposed either to have health insurance or pay themselves for hospital care in Britain. Thousands flout the rules, however, with £7million being owed to London health trusts alone.
Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: ‘The NHS is a national health service not an international one. ‘If someone does not pay for their treatment we will not let them back into the country.’
The move is expected to stamp out 94 per cent of the abuse of the Health Service, even though it does not restrict access to GP surgeries. Short-stay visitors are exempted from the crackdown as are failed asylum seekers – if they co-operate with Home Office support schemes.
Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘The NHS has a duty to anyone whose life or long-term health is at immediate risk, but we cannot afford to become an international health service, providing free treatment for all. ‘These changes will begin the process of developing a clearer, robust and fairer system of access to free NHS services which our review of the charging system will complete. ‘I want to see a system which maintains the confidence of the public while preventing inappropriate free access and continuing our commitment to human rights and protecting vulnerable groups.’
To enforce the rules, the NHS will inform the UK Border Agency about debtors to ensure they are not allowed to remain in, or return to, the country.
Under the changes, UK residents will be able to spend six months abroad rather than just three before they lose their automatic entitlement to free hospital treatment.
In a written ministerial statement, Miss Milton admitted: ‘Overall entitlement to free healthcare is often more generous to visitors and short-term residents than is reciprocated for UK citizens seeking treatment in many other countries. ‘Charging regulations only cover hospital treatment, so visitors may receive free primary care and other non-hospital based healthcare services. ‘Although hospitals have a statutory duty to enforce the regulations, effective enforcement by hospitals appears to vary considerably.’
The scheme will allow action to be taken against migrants only after they arrive in the UK.
To toughen up the regime in the future, ministers are to hold a review into whether non-EU migrants should have to hold health insurance before being granted a visa. At present, only migrants will be covered, but the review will consider whether all those applying for visas should be forced to have medical insurance.
And the review will look at charging for GP services and other out-of-hospital care. More effective and efficient processes to screen for eligibility and to make and recover charges across the NHS will also be considered.
But there will be no changes to the rules that allow EU citizens to benefit from free care on the Health Service.
Scandal of elderly cancer patients denied surgery due to reluctance to operate by NHS
Elderly people are being denied cancer surgery because NHS doctors are reluctant to operate on them, according to a study. It found the number of people treated for breast cancer falls by a third over the age of 60. Meanwhile only two per cent of patients over the age of 80 have surgery for six of the top 13 cancers.
Researchers said workers in the NHS often believed performing surgery on elderly patients was inappropriate and said this attitude was one of the key reasons for the decline in operations.
The biggest drop in operations is seen in the over-70s but the study found a decline across all forms of cancer treatment is evident from the age of 50.
Dr Mick Peake, lead clinician at the National Cancer Intelligence Network which carried out the study said: ‘While this isn’t intrinsically surprising, the drop in some cancers begins in age groups as young as the 50s. This is a cause for concern. ‘And, crucially, it raises questions about the underlying reasons for these variations and, in turn, what can be done to reduce them.
‘Inevitably, there may be reasons for variations by age and geography that are not directly related to the quality of care in our hospitals. ‘Such reasons may include the stage of the disease at diagnosis, late presentation by patients with symptoms, patients – especially older ones – choosing not to have surgery, different numbers of patients with other illnesses which mean surgery would be ill-advised.
‘But because complete data on these factors is not available, the report can’t attribute any of the variation to them, highlighting the importance of NCIN’s ongoing work in improving the information collected about cancer patients. ‘Despite all these caveats, the new facts and figures suggest that some parts of the country may have different rates compared to other regions.
‘This report provides the basis for further analyses to try and understand what the underlying causes of these differences are. ‘This is a good basis for cancer networks to examine why they might have lower surgery rates than their neighbours. So publishing this type of analysis could actually help to make things better.’
The study found that ‘There was evidence of small but significant decreases in the proportion of patients receiving a major resection (organ or tumour removal) in the more deprived socio-economic groups and also of variation in surgical rates between cancer networks.’
Less than 16 per cent of people with cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, bladder, prostate, lung, pancreas and liver had a record of a major resection. With liver cancer only six per cent had surgery before a drop to two per cent for all of these cancers for the over 80s.
Over the age of 40 and until someone reaches 80 the drop in the number of people receiving surgery for cancer of the ovaries was 56 per cent, kidney 49 per cent and cervical 48 per cent.
The difference between the number of patients from poor areas being treated compared to the more affluent was surprisingly narrow with the largest difference being cervical cancer – 10 per cent. However this did not take into account treatment in the private sector.
Fatter but living longer?
A strong hint that the obesity “crisis” is a load of garbage
Britons are living longer than ever before despite concerns about obesity and health problems, a leading scientist has claimed. Average life expectancy has soared to 80-years-old – an incredible eight years more than it was in the 1970s.
The figure is even higher than the U.S.- the country with the highest spending on health care – where people live to on average 78.4 years. [The U.S. figure includes blacks — where the leading cause of death among teenage males is gunfire]
Increasing life expectancy proves that as a nation we are eating more healthily than ever before [So why is obesity increasing??] and paying more attention to our bodies, professor David Leon says. But Professor Leon warns that unless more is done to tackle obesity among the current generation of youngsters life expectancy could slip back into the 1970s.
‘The message here is really to look at how well we have been doing and not squander it. Contrary to what people believe, the USA does not have better life expectancy. ‘Despite what many may have assumed, and without being complacent, current trends in European life expectancy are in a positive direction.
‘But while the European experience since 1980 underlines the centrality of the social, political and economic determinants of health, many intriguing and important questions remain unanswered about the drivers of these extraordinary trends.’
Professor Leon, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, concluded that in the last five years, most European countries have been improving for the first time in decades – although the gap between East and West remains entrenched.
He added deaths from cardiovascular disease in the UK had seen ‘some of the largest and most rapid falls of any Western European country, partly due to improvements in treatment as well as reductions in smoking and other risk factors’.
Fewer infections during childhood thanks to immunisation and better nutrition are also believed to have helped people grow taller and stronger.
Writing in an editorial in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Professor Leon compares life expectancy in western Europe with eastern Europe and the US. He said that the US was at the same level as the lowest of any Western European country, despite spending more per capita on health care than any other country in the world, with the rate for women increasing at a much slower pace than Western Europe.
In 2007, average life expectancy in the US was 78 years compared to 80 in the UK. In 2008, British male life expectancy stood at 77.9 and female life expectancy stood at 82.0, while Russian men could expect to live to 61.8 and women to 74.2, data from the World Health Organisation and the Human Mortality Database revealed.
Professor Leon praised the higher life expectancy and said it was partly due to some of the good work of the NHS. But he warned that long-term effects of obesity on cancer rates and children have yet to be seen. ‘The big uncertainty is what will be the health impact of a generation of chubby kids growing into obese adults and what happens when they get to 60’, he told the Daily Express. ‘That is an experiment that has never been done before.’
Professor Leon said that longer life expectancy heralded certain problems such as an added burden on the state through pensions and the NHS. There are also concerns on a global level about the increasing population combined with a shortage of food, space and natural resources.
Life span can also depend on several factors including location. Although the average Briton now lives to 80 this can be much lower in poorer areas where the average life expectancy was 75.8 in 2008 compared with 80 for wealthier regions.
And earlier this week it was revealed that on the Gurnos estate in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales the average life expectancy for men is just 58.8 years. There was found to be a ‘culture of despair’ in the former iron and coal town where men don’t care about living long healthy lives – because their quality of life is so poor. The grim figures revealed by the local Public Health Board are blamed on poor diet, heavy smoking and a high suicide rate due to unemployment.
Squatting is to be a crime in Britain: Police will be able to turf out intruders
The era of squatters’ rights is to end, the Daily Mail can reveal. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is to scrap existing ‘soft touch’ laws and make occupying a private property illegally a criminal offence. It will mean the police can enter a property by force and evict the occupants within days.
Offenders will face prosecution and even a jail term if found guilty. In Scotland, where squatting is already illegal, they can be jailed for 21 days.
Thousands of properties every year are ‘taken hostage’ by gangs of aggressive squatters, but homeowners and landlords complain they are powerless to take them back. Astonishingly, property owners can even face criminal prosecution themselves simply for forcing their way back into their own homes.
Landlords’ groups and MPs have long called for a change to the practically non-existent squatting laws. A senior Whitehall source said making the changes was now an ‘urgent priority’, as Mr Clarke seeks to end the nightmare of homeowners being locked out of their own properties.
The source said: ‘Ken has had enough of seeing homeowners battle to get squatters out. ‘He is determined to use the full force of the law to save people from the nightmare of having to fight to get their houses back. The days of squatters’ rights will be over.’
It is thought there may be up to 10,000 active squatters in England and Wales, who often move between properties with impunity. As the law stands, staying in the house is not a criminal offence but a breach of the civil law, meaning a court order is required to remove them. Getting one can cost thousands of pounds, and take months. Even if squatters break in, it is notoriously difficult to prove an offence has been committed.
By making squatting a crime, as it is in Scotland, ministers hope removals will become swift and effective. North of the border, the problem is much less prevalent. It could also allow the police to track ‘lifestyle squatters’ who hop between houses. Often the squatters move in to take advantage of multi-million pound properties which are empty while being renovated.
A Mail investigation earlier this month found an ‘estate agency for squatters’ listing empty properties across London. The Advisory Service for Squatters operates out of the third floor of a building in East London and advertises the details of scores of empty homes. It also publishes the Squatters Handbook which details how to take advantage of the law and even how to take apart a lock.
The dozens of websites for squatters advise using Section 6 (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, which was designed to protect tenants from aggressive and unscrupulous landlords but has become a ‘squatters’ charter’. Squatters can also obtain legal aid to help them fight their battles, while homeowners can be crippled by legal costs.
Often squatters post notices on the door warning of the action they will take if anyone tries to get in. Astonishingly, if they manage to resist attempts to evict them for ten years, they can claim ownership.
Legal figures suggest squatting court cases are becoming more commonplace, but most cases never even make it to court, because the intruders move on at the 11th hour.
Businesswoman Dy Maurice, 51, lost her savings of £50,000 in a 15-month battle to evict a squatter from her home in Macclesfield, Cheshire. She rented out the mews property after moving abroad to run a beauty salon, but it was sub-let by the tenant to a squatter who refused to pay rent. Her life then fell apart as she tried to evict him. She finally won a court order in August 2008 to have the man evicted, but he refused and it took another month to send in bailiffs.
Book banning in Britain
More love of censorship from Britain: UK anti-terror laws threaten anyone who possesses the works of the IRA or al-Qaeda – even for the purposes of study.
“The Politics of Terror is an International Relations course unlike any other. Before the first lecture, we all received an email from the tutor entitled ‘compulsory reading’, which outlined the legal implications of studying terrorism. All students become familiar with warnings of plagiarism, but this is something different. Since 2006, under new counterterrorism legislation, you can be investigated for possessing materials that are likely to be of use to a terrorist. And possessing materials for academic reasons is not an automatic defence.
More frightening still, this is not just theory. In May 2008, a student at Nottingham University, Rizwaan Sabir, was imprisoned for six days while he was investigated, after downloading an edited version of the al-Qaeda handbook from a US government website.
Our course handbooks summarise the situation very well. It states that ‘students are encouraged to search for literature beyond the reading lists…and engage critically with it’. And then underneath, in bold capitals, it says: ‘ALL STUDENTS HOWEVER SHOULD BE FAMILIAR WITH THE CURRENT LEGAL SITUATION REGARDING POSSESSION OF MATERIALS “LIKELY TO BE OF USE TO A TERRORIST”.’
None of us had ever begun a course by considering what could or could not be studied, researched or downloaded for the purposes of studying….
The idea that restrictions on academic freedom are going to protect us from terrorism is based on the exaggeration of the threat, and a patronising mistrust of students. Students who want to access information on how to make bombs and carry out terrorist attacks will continue to be able to do so. The document that Sabir downloaded is readily available online. Waterstones sells the collected speeches, interviews and statements of Osama bin Laden. This counter-terrorism legislation doesn’t make us safer, but only constrains the ability of students to conduct research, and to acquire the comprehensive understanding of terrorism which is clearly lacking in the Houses of Parliament.
Brighter pupils may soon be allowed to skip a year or two in Britain
“Accelerating” bright pupils was once a common way of helping them but the Left look on it as a wicked denial of that treasured but chimerical “equality”
Bright pupils could be allowed to ignore GCSEs and start studying for A-levels at 14. The Education Secretary Michael Gove wants schools to fast-track the cleverest students as soon as they are ready.
Until now, schools would have been at risk of dropping down league tables if their brightest pupils did not take GCSEs. But the tables may be changed to reflect how many pupils bypass GCSEs to start on A-levels.
A Department for Education source said England should think about copying Singapore, where some 20 per cent of pupils take A-levels early.
‘We are considering much greater freedom for schools to accelerate bright kids past GCSEs to do either A-levels or pre-Us [an alternative to A-levels] and introducing league table measures that capture that and reward schools for it, not penalise them,’ the source told the Times Educational Supplement.
‘We want a system that doesn’t disincentivise schools from doing what they think is in the best interests of the kid. ‘If, for example, you said a group of pupils in the top set in maths were going to skip GCSE and go straight to AS-level [the first year of A-levels], then we want to make it clear that they have done a great job. At the moment, they would all score zero.’
The Department for Education confirmed ministers were considering the idea. Under separate plans, pupils aged six are to be made to read in front of school inspectors, it has emerged.
The random tests are part of fresh measures to raise literacy standards in primary schools after they failed to improve under Labour. And secondary school children will be tested too, with on-the-spot spelling and comprehension tests.
England’s chief inspector Christine Gilbert revealed the measures, which could come in next year, as part of plans to streamline school inspections and focus them on struggling schools.
But Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘There is already enough accountability and assessment measures for reading and literacy.’