‘Free at the point of use’, but only in certain circumstances, that’s the NHS today. Yes, it was a good idea to stop ‘health tourism’, where anyone who could not afford healthcare in their own country could present in the UK and use the NHS free of charge, but recently I have come across a case which causes me real problems.
A born and bred UK citizen, K, goes on holiday to a non-EU country, meets the ‘man of her dreams’ and in due course they marry. K now lives in the man’s homeland, frequently returning home to the UK as her Mother has a chronic illness and she shares in her Mother’s care with her siblings. Her Mother now has a malignancy for which she has had surgery and is now undergoing chemotherapy. K is pregnant,she had all her early care, including the nuchal translucency scan, abroad but has now returned to the UK to help care for and support her Mother. She has no idea how long she will be here, it is dependant on whether her Mother responds to her treatment.
Why have I got a problem? Well, the G.P surgery that she is still registered with, and has been since she was born, have said that if they have to provide her with any care they will charge her and that they are notifying the Trust about her non-resident status and anticipate that she will have to pay for her maternity care.
I’m angry, and really upset about this, to me it seems terribly unfair. K is here because her Mother needs her, she is actually helping out by providing the type of support the NHS would have to provide for her Mother if she were not here. K is not a health tourist, she is here out of necessity at a time when she happens to be pregnant. Here we are, bemoaning the high maternal and neonatal mortality rates in other countries due to a lack of accessible, free antenatal care, telling a UK citizen that if she wants maternity care she will have to pay for it.
I am incredulous about the whole ridiculous, disgraceful situation and basically I blame the money-grabbing G.P surgery. They could have kept quiet, they did not have to open their greedy, little mouths but, oh no, in the face of an opportunity to scrabble in a bit more money they just couldn’t resist it. What ever happened to the kindly, family G.P of just a few years ago?