Britain still tough on ‘health tourism’


Britons living abroad were caught in a drive four years ago to cut “health tourism”.

New regulations barred access to the NHS, except in emergencies, to British expatriates resident in Europe for more than half the year.

Britons associated with other countries, for instance Canada or Australia, may be asked to show they spend nine months a year in the UK in order to use the system for non-emergencies.

According to the Department of Health, the fact that an expat might have paid a lifetime’s National Insurance subscriptions is irrelevant. However, in practice is hard to believe all NHS units regularly check the eligibility of Britons.

Expat retirees who have taken out E121 forms in order to use local health services can, of course, return to Britain. If this is done on a permanent basis, they are entitled to re-register on the NHS.

A Ghanaian kidney patient being treated on the NHS was “sent home to die” in January when her visa ran out.

Friends of Ama Sumani, 39, said she had no future in Ghana as kidney dialysis was unavailable in her home area.

She died last month. Her fate was decided more by immigration than health officials, but the controversial case highlights the strength of the drive against “health tourism”.