An illegal immigrant who had no entitlement to NHS care has spent 13 months blocking a hospital bed – at a cost to taxpayers of £100,000.
The Pakistani national should have left the country when his visa expired four years ago, but became an ‘overstayer’ and was still in Britain when he suffered a heart attack last summer.
The unidentified man received treatment and was declared fit enough to be discharged in August last year.
But he has remained on a ward ever since because the UK Border Agency has been unable to fix a date with Pakistan International Airlines to fly him back to his home country. Although fit to be discharged, he does need long-term nursing care, which would ordinarily be provided in the community or by a care home.
The case came to light after it was raised in Parliament by Tory MP Margot James, who branded the delays ‘an outrageous abuse of NHS resources’ and an ‘appalling case of bureaucratic inertia’.
It is understood the delay in discharging him from Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley has in part been caused by difficulties in arranging for a medical escort to accompany him home, while his family in Pakistan have struggled to find suitable nursing care for him there.
The patient could not be transferred to an immigration removal centre pending deportation because they do not have the facilities to care for his medical needs.
Miss James, MP for Stourbridge, decided to raise the matter in Parliament after Paula Clark, chief executive of the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, contacted her saying she was still awaiting a discharge date from the UK Border Agency.
During Home Office questions on Tuesday, Miss James called on immigration minister Damian Green to ensure illegal immigrants who receive NHS treatment are repatriated as soon as that treatment is concluded.
The minister said the Government took a robust stance on abuse of NHS services and the patient would be removed in the ‘near future’.
The MP said although the man was not eligible for NHS treatment, ‘we’re not the sort of country to refuse medical care and I don’t think we should be’.
She added: ‘The failure in the system was the failure to remove him when his visa ran out and the fact that the UK Border Agency and Pakistan International Airlines couldn’t get their act together.’
The patient was initially treated at the Royal London Hospital following a heart attack and subsequent hypoxic brain injury, but was transferred to Dudley in July 2010 because he had a relative there.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘NHS managers need to explain why they spent so much money on a bed blocker not entitled to free health care in the UK. They’re running a hospital not a hotel. Taxpayers can’t afford to pay for an international health service.’
Julie Bailey, of campaign group Cure the NHS, said it was ‘absurd’ that an illegal immigrant had been able to block a hospital bed for more than a year.
In theory, any foreigner who receives NHS treatment is meant to pay back all of its costs. But human rights laws state NHS staff must treat every patient who comes through their doors who has a life-threatening condition, even if they are not actually entitled to it.
Many foreign patients fly home and illegal immigrants disappear without ever paying the NHS for their treatment.
The latest figures show that the NHS is owed around £7million from so-called health tourists who received some form of treatment in the last year alone.
In a statement on behalf of the hospital trust, Miss Clark said: ‘We are working with the UK Border Agency to ensure our patient is discharged safely and are awaiting a discharge date from them.
‘Our patient needed acute hospital care when admitted into hospital with complex medical conditions and was medically fit to be discharged in August 2010 but required ongoing nursing care.
‘The cost of care to the hospital has been in excess of £100,000.’
The UKBA said it first became aware of the case last December.
Gail Adams, its regional director, said: ‘The NHS is a national, not an international, health service and we will not tolerate its abuse which is why arrangements for removal have been made in this complex case. We will remove those not entitled to remain in the country, even where medically difficult, and will provide medical escorts to remove those undergoing treatment if needed.’ Source: Daily Mail.
Earlier this year the Mail reported the case of Ayelabola, a Nigerian woman who flew to London on a visitor’s visa specifically to give birth quintuplets at an East London Hospital.
The cost of treatment at a special care unit was estimated to have cost over £200,000 and the woman is still in the UK fighting to extend her visa. Although she was not eligible for free treatment it is unlikely that the NHS will be paid back, even though her husband is a wealthy businessman in Nigeria.
Following a number of similar high profile cases the UK Border Agency has introduced compulsory Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover for Bulgarians and Romanians applying for yellow card registration as a working student.
The insurance, a form of private medical cover, is a new requirement introduced as part of changes to the BR1 Yellow Card form in June.
The requirement is hotly disputed as Bulgarian and Romanian citizens, as part of the European Union, should have access to NHS treatment.
No other students, for instance non-EU Tier 4 students, need Comprehensive Sickness Insurance to study in the UK.
Despite the fact that they are members of the European Union, when it comes to employment Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do not have the same rights as other Europeans, for instance from Poland, Slovakia or other A8 Accession countries.
Many care industry and catering businesses would like to legally employ Romanian, Bulgarian and other European workers, as the Government’s cap on migration, combined with newly imposed restrictions on Tier 2 and Tier 4 routes, has made it increasing difficult to recruit non-EU staff (on work permits and student visas).
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: email@example.com or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
STILL CONFUSED BY YELLOW CARD RULES?
Free presentations are being run at Bison UK Immigration Advisers for Employers, Romanians and Bulgarians – Monday to Friday, from 11am-12noon and 3-4pm. No need to book, just turn up.
Venue: 16 Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire WD6 1DL. Nearest Train Station: Elstree and Borehamwood Station; Buses from Edgware underground station: 107 and 292.