New research published today reveals the pressure that immigration is placing on the NHS.
The research, conducted by Migrationwatch, found that in 2007-8, 605,000 people who arrived from overseas registered with a GP in England and Wales – equivalent to one registration a minute, day and night, throughout the year. This was nearly 100,000 more than the inflow recorded in the International Migration Statistics for England and Wales for the same period. This suggests that short-term migrants (or illegal migrants) have also registered. Only 69,000 of the 605,000 were British people returning from a spell overseas.
The number of arrivals from overseas registering has increased by 50% in the past seven years but it is only in the last three years that registrations have exceeded the inflow of migrants. Of course migrants also leave. 333,000 left England and Wales in 2007-8 but this “churn” together with the additional population adds to the strains on the NHS.
These GP registration data are not precise as they are not compiled for statistical purposes. If anything, they understate the pressure of immigration on the National Health Service as those migrants who move practices within a year would not show up as arrivals from overseas. Furthermore, young men who make up a large proportion of migrants are known to be less likely to register with a GP than other groups.
There are no checks on the entitlement of those who seek to register with a GP, indeed doctors have discretion to register whoever they choose.
Five years ago, in May 2004, the Government issued proposals to exclude overseas visitors from eligibility to free NHS primary and medical services.The then Secretary of State promised “to ensure that the NHS is first and foremost for the benefit of residents in this country”. On 20 July 2009, five years later and on the last day of Parliament, the government issued proposals which included “to maintain GP discretion to determine registration to access free NHS primary care medical services along with the established principle that GPs may charge non-residents as private patients".
Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch said:“This amounts to an open door to primary care which can also lead to access to secondary care. The government has been dithering while the NHS has been struggling to cope with the extra numbers resulting from mass immigration. In present financial circumstances it is surely obvious that we do not have the resources to cope with the extra ten million people now officially projected over the next 25 years – seven million as a result of immigration."