Immigration and the NHS

by Richard on January 27, 2018

If conversations I’ve had recently are anything to go by, it seems to have been widely accepted that the current problems of the NHS can be laid at the door of “runaway immigration” and “health tourism”. This comment from a recent article in the Daily Mail about sums it up
It isn’t true, as a few facts quickly demonstrate.

First, the NHS budget in England is something over £100 *billion*. That’s a huge sum of money, but it provides treatment for an awful lot of people, free at the point of use. There’s no denying that it isn’t perfect, but no one on these islands need fear the cost of their medical treatment, and the NHS is a huge indicator of what we sometimes call our shared values. We are rightly proud of our health service. If you’ve ever needed to receive medical treatment in a country which does not have a comprehensive health system and have had to spend time with hospital administrators before you get anywhere near a nurse, let alone a doctor, you’ll understand why.

It is undeniable that immigrants who use the NHS add to its costs, but this additional burden has been wildly exagerrated to serve the political agenda of the Right. For example, immigration from the EU adds £160 million to the NHS budget. That’s a big wedge of cash, but it’s a lot less than 1% of the whole budget. So-called ‘health tourism’, in which people come to the UK specifically to make use of the NHS, is estimated to cost £60 - £80 million. Another big wodge of mullah by everyday standards, but trivial in comparison to the total budget.

And let’s not forget that the NHS depends on immigrant workers. Around 12% of NHS workers come from outside Britain. Every hospital I’ve ever been in would have to close almost immediately if non-British workers listened to the racists and “went home”.


How would we do without the 36% of doctors who qualified overseas?

Finally, this study on the impact of immigration on NHS waiting times concluded that “immigration reduced waiting times for outpatient referrals and did not have significant effects on waiting times in accident and emergency (A&E) and elective care.”

The simple truth is that immigrants make a convenient scapegoat for a government that has clearly failed in its duty to provide proper funding for one of our noblest institutions.

And it really is time we stopped peddling the lies.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }


Kim 01.27.18 at 4:18 pm

If conversations I’ve had recently are anything to go by …

You really do move in troglodytic circles!

Speaking of the Daily Mail: notwithstanding my convictions regarding an open Communion Table, I am tempted by the idea of excommunicating Mail readers. Or at least, in the prayers preceding Communion, confessing the sin of reading the Devil’s Tabloid and begging for God’s mercy.

And speaking of immigration, we have to be careful: while recognising the argument of the NHS’ dependence on immigrant workers (I make it myself), there are plenty of people, so-called liberals included, who would extend its pragmatic premise to the point of saying that only immigrants who contribute to the UK economy are welcome here. Particularly with respect to refugees and asylum seekers, the question of utility must not be allowed to trump the question of sheer need. As Erin K. Wilson and Luc Mavelli insist:

“At the heart of debates and discussions about migration is really a very simple question: either we are prepared to see people on the move as human beings entitled to the same rights, safety, privileges and quality of life as we are, or we are not. And we must be prepared to deal with the political, social, financial and moral consequences of our answer to that question.”


Richard 01.27.18 at 6:40 pm

You really do move in troglodytic circles
But these were ordinary folk, decent & kind, who have been told a lie so often that they believe it

You won’t be surprised (I hope!) that I agree completely about the dangerous nature of utilitarian defences of immigration


Kim 01.27.18 at 8:35 pm

But these were ordinary folk, decent & kind …

Yeah, that’s the really scary thing. And that some of them sit in our pews — that’s even scarier. They read the Daily Mail as if it’s the gospel, and they listen to the gospel — well, do they? — even though it too has been preached to them “so often”. One weeps.

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