‘Health tourists are risking lives’

Eric Ollerenshaw MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood (LEFT) with Immigration Minister James Brokenshire
Eric Ollerenshaw MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood (LEFT) with Immigration Minister James Brokenshire
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An experienced former NHS nurse claims patients’ lives are at risk from ‘health tourism. ‘

Local Town Councillor Pat Greenhough was determined to alert Immigration Minister James Brokenshire when he made a flying visit to Preesall.

She was one of several residents outlining their concerns at a public meeting at St Oswald’s Church Hall on issues ranging from inadequate port security checks at Calais to bogus qualifications of some overseas security staff.

Now James Brokenshire, minister for security and immigration has asked one resident to send him more information about her concerns over examination scams.

Mr Brokenshire was visiting one of the most marginal seats in the county, Lancaster and Fleetwood North, at the invitation of local MP Eric Ollerenshaw, who represents the constituency. Residents in Knott End and the local area had been invited to come and quiz the minister in what was described as an “Immigration Direct” event.

Some 45 residents listened as Mr Brokenshire outlined his Government’s record on immigration and security issues and future ambitions.

Former nurse Pat told of her experiences seeing seriously ill overseas visitors queue jumping and so putting other UK patients’ lives at risk.

She told him she had worked at Manchester’s Wythenshawe hospital and London hospitals, and reported that hospitals near the larger airports experienced queue jumping of an unusual sort. She told the meeting: “A lot of patients would declare themselves ill on the flight in. Then they would have a wheelchair and ambulance waiting.”

They would have long term chronic health issues which needed immediate care and major surgery and had risked their lives travelling. A surgeon would need to operate but: ”The next day the surgeon has to cancel his list as too tired - been up all night. So NHS patients who have been waiting years and paid into the system have to be cancelled.”

She claimed this condemned NHS patients who would die waiting for their surgery. She said most of these emergency overseas patients did not appear for follow up appointments and were never seen again by UK medics.

Mr Brokenshire replied that he knew the health minister was very aware of issues relating to “health tourism.”

He also detailed new moves to charge a health levy on those legitimately arriving in the country for extended periods, such as students.

Meanwhile Leanne Murray of Preesall warned that she believed the qualification system in the security industry was open to abuse - and this meant staff whose qualifications were bogus or whose criminal records had not been sufficiently checked were placed in positions of authority as security guards working with some of the most vulnerable members of society.

She claimed the Blackpool area was affected and noted: “In Blackpool in particular we’re influxed with people who can’t even speak (the) language - they are licensed by the security authority.”

The minister asked her to send him more details about her concerns so he could look into this further, but added that already some 60 bogus further colleges had been closed after admitting students with bogus certificates. He added there was ”some organised crime” with students getting certificates without taking exams. Several hundred such students were being deported and thousands more were currently being investigated.

After the meeting asked about concerns over electoral fraud in parts of Lancashire he said changes had been made to ensure individual voter identification took place adding:”It’s a constant process to ensure we are tightening the system.”