HC Deb 05 May 1949 vol 464 cc1196-7
29. Mr. Shephard

asked the Minister of Health with which countries reciprocal arrangements are in force enabling British nationals to obtain dentures and spectacles free of charge whilst on visits to such countries.

31. Mr. Walter Fletcher

asked the Minister of Health what reciprocal arrangements exist in any foreign country or countries for British subjects to obtain medical attention equivalent to that rendered by the National Health Service to foreign visitors to this country.

Mr. Bevan

No reciprocal arrangements for the provision of medical care for British subjects have yet been concluded with any other country. Discussions with certain countries are proceeding but it is likely to be a considerable time before any arrangements are in force.

Mr. Shephard

Does the Minister consider that we are so well off in this country that we can afford to extend the benefits of our Health Service to other countries? Will he give an assurance that he will not extend those benefits to those countries which are not prepared to offer reciprocal arrangements?

Mr. Bevan

So far as we can estimate—and it is difficult to estimate in this matter—the amount which is being spent upon the care of persons visiting this country from abroad is a very small proportion indeed of the total amount. There has been a very short time in which other countries can make reciprocal arrangements. I hope that we shall not cut this off too early, but will give other nations an opportunity of adopting what I consider to be a civilised practice.

Dr. Segal

Is there not a hope that reciprocal arrangements may shortly be possible with the United States of America?

Mr. Keeling

Would the Minister deny that the queue of people waiting for artificial limbs and spectacles has been lengthened by the number of patients who come over to obtain them?

Mr. Bevan

I take the view—and I hope hon. Members in all parts of the House take the same view—that the health of our neighbours is also our concern.

Mr. Driberg

Is it not, in any case, true that foreign visitors to this country, of whom only a very small minority use the Health Service, are contributing towards the financing of the Health Service, in indirect taxation, all the time they stay here?

Mr. Bevan


Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

In the meantime, could not a refund be given to those British subjects who have to expend money on their health when abroad—for instance, men like merchant seamen.

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