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David Cameron has said it is right that people "who don't have a right to use our NHS get properly charged for it" after Labour MP Dianne Abbott said plans to charge foreign nationals were "xenophobic".
Speaking to MPs, Mr Cameron defended the plans saying:
"British families pay about £5,000 a year in taxes to pay for our NHS and it is right to make sure that those people who don't have a right to use our NHS get properly charged for it.
"I had hoped there would be all-party support for it but Labour's public health minister has condemned it as xenophobic so I assume they are now going to oppose this sensible change which working people in this country will roundly support."
- Proposals include a levy on visa charges of around £200 for any students or foreign workers who come to the UK for more than six months.
- Free access to GPs for tourists and those staying for less than half a year could also be curbed.
- Expatriates who live outside Europe would be expected to contribute.
- However, expatriates who have made up to 10 years National Insurance contributions would still receive NHS care.
- Nobody will be denied treatment regardless of their nationality.
Shadow health minister Diane Abbott has tweeted:
Earlier, Labour's shadow health minister Liz Kendall said the government had a "poor record in announcing policies that sound good but prove to be completely unworkable" and they would be asking "many questions" on the proposals.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told ITV's Daybreak that the crackdown on health tourism in the UK would not see doctors act as border officers.
He said: "We don't want them (doctors) to be border officers at all, what we are looking at is a non-bureaucratic system".
Mr Hunt added that the NHS is the "most generous" healthcare system in the world and that he wanted to make it a service that was "sustainable and fair for hardworking British families".
He said: "If we do nothing at all we are basically saying that we are not a national health service, we're an international health service and I don't think that's fair on hardworking families who pay their taxes".
Labour's shadow health minister Liz Kendall has raised concerns about whether the measures being unveiled today will be possible to enforce, and will save money:
The National AIDS Trust has said that measures to stop visitors to the UK taking advantage of healthcare for free would also threaten the health of Britons.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said people with HIV would still receive free healthcare if the scheme went ahead.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the measures he will announce today are designed to "wipe out abuse in the system" by visitors to the UK.
Foreigners who come to the UK will face charges to access NHS treatment under new plans to ensure they "contribute towards the cost of their healthcare", the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce today.
Ministers will outline plans to introduce a levy on any students or foreign workers who come to the UK for more than half a year.
The fee, which is likely to be around £200 a year, will be an addition to the visa charge, officials said.
Mr Hunt is expected to announce a public consultation on the move later today as part of a raft of changes to immigration laws.
An audit is being launched on how much overseas patients and short-term residents cost the health service, as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to announce a "crackdown" on abuse of public health services next week.
According to Department of Health research:
- The NHS bill for treating tourists is estimated to be up to £200 million.
- Expats, who currently face paying for care if they live permanently overseas, are set to be given guaranteed access to free NHS healthcare, but only once they have paid 10 years of national insurance contributions.
- Around £33 million went on the treatment of foreign nationals in hospitals in 2011/12, of which around £12 million was written off.
- Less than half of overseas visitors using hospitals are identified and only half of their costs are recovered.
Latest ITV News reports
Jeremy Hunt has vowed to "wipe out abuse in the system" as he introduced plans to charge Non-EU nationals for use of the NHS