Matt Hancock has been summoned to appear before the Commons Health and Social Care Committee to explain his refusal to provide it with information on the Government’s review of NHS overseas visitor charging.
The Committee is keen to make its own assessment of the Government’s review. Back in January, it wrote to Hancock asking to see a copy of the review of amendments made to the NHS
“This is particularly important to mitigate risk to the individual patient, to avoid their health worsening considerably, but also to protect the wider public’s health, as infectious conditions can spread quickly if not treated at the earliest possible stage.
– rules which require providers to check patients’ entitlement to services before treatment and charge up 150% fees on short term visitors, migrants or refused asylum seekers.
Then Health Minister Stephen Hammond had made a written statement on this before Christmas, but the Committee had not seen the full review or the evidence provided to it.
Hammond’s statement claimed that the review showed “no significant evidence that the 2017 Amendment Regulations have led to overseas visitors being deterred from treatment or that the changes have had an impact on public health”.
The Committee wanted to make its own judgement on whether or not this was the case.
However Hancock’s reply argued that he could not publish the review or the evidence because they contained “confidential information” from “interested stakeholders” which was submitted on the basis it would not be published.
The Committee responded by requesting the evidence be supplied in confidence, along with the report, and offered to consider what sections might need to be redacted if it were published
Once again Matt Hancock refused to supply the information required.
The Committee has now states that it considers this refusal to be “contrary to the Government’s commitment to being “as open and transparent as possible” with select committees”, and in violation of the “presumption that requests for information from Select Committees will be agreed to”.
The health secretary has now been “invited” to give evidence in person on Tuesday 25 June, to account for the refusal to provide the information. It seems like an invitation he can’t refuse.
The government claims are out of kilter with the views of health professionals who argue that the negative effects of the Charging Regulations have been significant.
The BMA are calling for “a full and independent review into the impact of the regulations on individual and public health”
Dr John Chisholm, BMA medical ethics committee chair, said:
“The Government must take urgent action and come clean over the evidence they have on the impact these rules are having on the ground. The public has a right to know what the evidence shows.”
and commenting on the evidence from a survey of BMA members’ experiences of the regulations he said,
“,,,urgent treatment must be prioritised over administrative process and safeguards must be put in place to protect vulnerable groups and ensure that patients are not deterred from seeking care. This is particularly important to mitigate risk to the individual patient, to avoid their health worsening considerably, but also to protect the wider public’s health, as infectious conditions can spread quickly”