Saturday, January 17, 2009

Any excuse to refuse medical care to those who have paid for it

British woman with deadly virus denied free NHS care... because she moved to Turkey to retire

A grandmother who moved to Turkey when she retired was billed for NHS treatment - despite making National Insurance contributions throughout her life. Joyce McDonald, 66, almost died when she was struck down with heart and liver damage and spent her entire life savings on an emergency medical flight to Britain. She was rushed to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge where she spent two weeks undergoing treatment for a deadly virus attacking her organs.

But after she returned to Turkey, Mrs McDonald was stunned to receive a bill for 367 pounds from Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust for her initial consultation. She was also slapped with another 800 bill for the three mile ambulance ride from the airport in Cambridge to the hospital.

Mrs McDonald, who moved to Turkey with her husband in 2004, was told she was not entitled to free state health care because she is no longer a British citizen. But her husband Ronald McDonald, 71, has blasted the NHS for its 'disgraceful' stance after the couple made more than 50 years' National Insurance contributions. He now fears they could be left financially crippled if they are forced to pay an estimated 10,000 for future treatments themselves. He said: 'It was touch and go as to whether I might lose my wife on the flight home. She was very weak. 'Then when I got to the airport in Cambridge we were taken by ambulance from the airport to the hospital - I have since been given a bill for 800 for a five minute ambulance ride.

Mrs McDonald was struck down with a deadly virus and will need more treatment in the UK 'I'm still waiting for the bill for the two week hospital stay. It's utterly disgraceful. 'My wife and I are still British citizens and have paid taxes for the best part of 50 years before we moved to Turkey. 'We only moved because our pensions didn't cover the cost of living.' The couple left their home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, for Turkey, five years ago to enjoy their retirements in the sun.

But Mrs McDonald was struck down with a severe virus in November and the pair were forced to spend 26,000 on medical evacuation flights to the UK. She was discharged two weeks later and returned to Turkey, but was told she needed to return to the UK next month for further tests. The couple are both still British passport holders but have been told they will have to pay for all future treatments because they had been out of Britain for more than three months.

Mr McDonald, who still pays tax in Britain on a small private pension, is prepared to go to court over the issue. He said: 'I refuse to be blackmailed by the NHS. 'I don't mind having to pay for the emergency air ambulance and treatment in Turkey but it's ridiculous to have to pay for treatment in my own country. 'What have I been paying for all these years? 'I have already been given a bill of nearly 400 for the initial consultation when we arrived at the hospital and my wife still has four tests in February for her heart and her liver. 'Obviously I've spent my life savings to save my wife and now I'm totally wiped out. 'It's probably going to cost us at least 10,000.'

Mr McDonald also claims Cambridge NHS trust had threatened to contact the Foreign Office and stop him having his British visa renewed. He said: 'I don't even need a British visa - I'm a British passport holder 'We are being treated worse than immigrants who come across to Britain and get free health care and don't pay taxes.' 'Thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal from both the EU, and the rest of the world, are entitled to free housing and medical treatment, but as British citizens, my wife and I are excluded from similar treatment.'

A spokesman from the Department of Health said the regulations on payment for services had been in place since 1989. He said: 'The NHS is first and foremost for the benefit of people who live in this country. 'People who are not ordinarily resident here are not automatically entitled to access free NHS hospital treatment. 'UK state pension holders living overseas are exempt from charges if they need treatment during their visit to the UK. This does not include pre-planned treatment.'

John Leslie, Director of Finance at NHS Cambridgeshire said: 'While NHS Cambridgeshire cannot comment on individual cases,the Department of Health gives very clear guidance on the provision of NHS services to people in Cambridgeshire. 'Anyone who is normally a resident of the UK is entitled to free NHS hospital treatment.' 'However, anyone who has been living outside of the UK for more than 3 months would not be automatically eligible for free hospital treatment.'


That degree in Disco Studies may yet come in useful

[British] NuLab has hugely increased state spending on education. This year they will spend well over 80bn pounds, comfortably more than double what they inherited in 1997. In inflation adjusted terms, spending has increased by 5% pa, much faster than GDP. And state education's share of GDP has risen by nearly one full percentage point. In fact, at 5.3% of GDP, we are now spending more on state education than any other G7 country except France (on 5.6%).

So what have we got for all that money? Have we had the promised leap in education standards, and can we now see that bright new workforce equipped to triumph in the post-industrial hi-tech challenges of the 21st Century? Er, no. We've had record GCSE results, record A Level results, and record numbers of university graduates, but we haven't had any of that other stuff - the stuff we actually need. We are spending tens of billions extra every year, yet the results are no better.

In fact, so ill-equipped is the bright new workforce now pouring out of our state schools and universities, that the government is having to pay employers to take them on, even temporarily. Last week, we heard taxpayers' money was being used to bribe employers to take on 35,000 unemployed school leavers as "apprentices" (see this blog). And today we hear another bunch of employers are being bribed to offer an unspecified number of "internships"* to unemployed university grads. Skills Secretary John Denham (most assuredly no relation to The Bloke) explains:

"They [new graduates] will be a very big group: around 400,000. We can't just leave people to fend for themselves. At the end they will be more employable, and some of them will get jobs."

Wow! Some of them might even get jobs? And pray explain again why we've got 400,000 graduates - graduates who are so ill-equipped for life that they can't even be left to fend for themselves. Remembering of course, that when Labour came to power, our unis were only producing 200,000 grads per year.

Yes, we know there's a recession/slump on, but the problems with all these new grads go much deeper than that. As we've blogged many times (start here), both the nation and the students themselves have had shocking value from Labour's gung-ho expansion of "higher" education and its entirely arbitrary 50% participation target. A brief recap:

* Taxpayers now spend 12bn pounds pa on higher education; the students themselves spend a whole lot more

* There are 2.3m students, or 4% of the entire population (including 27,000 doing the Major's favourite, the degree in media studies)

* The 50% participation target is "aspirational" - ie entirely arbitrary (admitted to the PAC by the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England - see this blog)

* The average HE participation rate across the OECD is 35%: ours is already 40% and heading for 50%

* Thousands of graduates now do non-graduate jobs, and that number is growing rapidly- their M Mouse degrees have simply not equipped them to do anything else (according to HESA, 75% - yes, 75% - of 2002-3 graduates were still in non-graduate jobs four years after graduation; what's more, 26% weren't in full-time jobs of any kind

* The average financial return to a degree is plummeting - according to PWC, the gross return to an Arts degree is now only about œ30 grand, and that takes no account of the costs of study and the earnings foregone - net net an average Arts degree almost certainly reduces lifetime wealth.

The truth is that despite all their "challenges of the globalised economy" wibble, Labour have never seen education in economic terms. From comprehensivisation to Laura Spence, Labour's priority has always been social engineering. For them, it has always been far more important to put everyone on the same level, than to pursue educational excellence.

So let's thank God for private education. Because without it, Britain really would be in the merde. All our top jobs would have to be filled by people who'd been processed through our dumbed-down state social engineering factories. Yes, Brown's new Equality Commissar - Haze of Dope Milburn - is perfectly free to rant on about the unfair advantages private education brings on the employment front. But we all know the truth: the reason that social mobility has stalled so badly is that Labour politicians sacrificed state education on the altar of social engineering.

And unfortunately, as the slump gathers pace, the dismal results of their approach are going to be even more apparent. People who may have been employable in a credit boom are going to find it very tough in the harsh future now unfolding before us. As someone whose life chances were transformed by high quality state education, it really does make me want to scream.

*Footnote- So HTF has our deadend government persuaded sensible companies like Microsoft and Barclays to offer these internships? Well, first - as per - it sounds like classic vapourware and probably won't happen. "A spokeswoman for Microsoft said the company in principle "absolutely supports" the idea and had been "really enthusiastic" when the government approached it. Asked what the scheme involved, she said: "We have to sit down and go through the scheme in detail." Hmm. And second, Microsoft... major government supplier... needs to be seen as A Good Citizen in these troubled times... Barclays... big bank with big debts... needs to be seen as A Good Citizen in these troubled times... nope, I don't get it at all.


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