Clause 7. — (Removal of Hardships.)

Part of Orders of the Day — National Health Service (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1949.

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Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley 12:00 am, 9th December 1949

Of course I realise that the words "persons resident outside Great Britain" include people of British nationality. These regulations will necessarily be complicated. It was my hope that some special allowances might be made for people of British nationality.

I was at a meeting a few months ago where there was a discussion on this subject. We listened to arguments for and against the policy. After a while a young woman at the back of the hall said that she was a visitor to the United Kingdom from the United States of America. She said that she had had no illness in her life and that her health was then good, but she added, "If I am taken ill whilst away from home, it is good to know that someone will look after me." She felt the comfort of being among good Samaritans. I think that she is only one of thousands of foreigners to carry back to their own lands grateful memories of our generosity. The use of the Health Service by foreigners has not cost the country a great deal of money. The price has been small for the amount of international good will and friendship which has been created. I hope that we shall continue to give free medical attention in those bona fide cases of illness which occur among foreigners visiting this country. Surely, it is our desire to set an example to the world in courtesy and in international ethics.

Abuses by people who come deliberately to the United Kingdom to take advantage of a free service present another matter. That practice must be checked. Quite apart from economic reasons which certainly cannot be ignored, on principle we must not allow such conduct.

When regulations are made to stop abuses by foreigners, I hope that care will be exercised not to discourage people from other countries coming here for medical and surgical treatment if they are prepared to pay for it. If they are willing to pay the costs of private wards in hospitals, drugs, dressings and doctors' fees, no impediment should be placed in their way.

People from many countries go to Switzerland for sanatorium treatment. We hear of people going to the United States of America for difficult and delicate brain operations. In this country we have hospitals of fame, physicians and surgeons of international repute, and we have a new, efficient and improving Health Service. I think that we should encourage rather than debar from our country foreigners seeking treatment, provided they cause us no financial loss.

To summarise my views, I place foreign patients in three categories. First, there are those who are taken ill whilst with us. They should be allowed, if they so wish, to have free medical attention. Secondly, there are those who come to grasp something for nothing. They must be stopped. Thirdly, there are those who come for medical attention and are ready to pay for it. They should be welcomed. When regulations are drafted, I hope that each of the three categories I have mentioned will receive just regard.