UK

Immigrants Are Contributing To NHS Waiting List Crisis, Tory MP Chris Skidmore Claims

04/06/2013 11:41 BST

A Conservative MP has proposed a crackdown on healthcare for immigrants to solve the A&E crisis.

But a doctors' leader told him he was more likely to see migrants working as a doctor than sitting in the waiting room.

Waiting times are at a nine-year high, with too many patients facing a four-hour wait, the independent King's Fund said.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a member of the Health Select Committee, said immigrants should be barred from accessing free NHS treatment until they had been paying tax in the country for five years in an effort to ease the burden on A&E.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that many immigrants were not registering with GPs and were instead going straight to emergency departments when they had health problems.

Skidmore said: "If we had a system where migrants were able to come to this country, have medical insurance to start with and maybe after five years of paying tax were then able to access NHS services for free then we have a system where people would understand that migration is a good thing, people have paid their tax and they are not abusing the NHS."

nhs migrants

Migrants use the NHS less than the rest of the population

Skidmore said he was using figures from the King's Fund report, and added: "You hear anecdotal evidence".

His account was disputed by Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, who said: "Let's talk not about abuse, let's talk about facts".

Immigrants tend to be younger than the rest of the population, so use health services less, she said.

She added: "You are much more likely to have an immigrant caring for you than pitching up in front of an A&E department."

Gerada agreed some people from Eastern Europe were not used to seeing a GP so would be more inclined to turn up at A&E.

"But it's certainly not responsible for the massive increase we have seen in recent months," she added.