§ 22. Mr. Gibson-Watt
asked the Minister of Health if he will introduce legislation to establish a special fund out of which those who incur debts, as a result of medical treatment received in foreign countries with which he has no reciprocal agreement, may be compensated.
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
May I ask my hon. Friend whether he realises that the Question concerns a constituent of mine, Mrs. Bowen, who when she was in America had an accident and as a result now owes the medical authorities in America 7,900 dollars? Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend to continue the efforts which I know he is making to get reciprocal arrangements with the United States? Will my right hon. Friend point out to the United States authorities that if the present position continues only rich people will be able to afford to go to the States?
§ Mr. Braine
First, may I make it quite plain that it is the policy of the Government to secure reciprocal arrangements wherever possible. The difficulty, of course, is that there are so few countries in the world which have a comprehensive health service similar to our own.
I appreciate what my hon. Friend is seeking to do, but my right hon. Friend has no power to meet the cost of treatment abroad, nor the cost of treatment outside the National Health Service in this country. It would be virtually impossible to devise a means of maintaining any control over expenditure from a fund of that kind. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to prevent abuse. It is not unreasonable—not in connection with this case, but generally, because this affects a number of people—to expect people who go abroad to make provision by private insurance to meet the financial consequences of illness or injury while there.
§ Sir H. Harrison
Would my hon. Friend confirm that Foreign Office 28 officials in foreign countries often help our nationals who go into hospitals in those countries with their debts and their passages home, and that if a person is in need they do not press for repayment of the amount involved?
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
As I know that my hon. Friend would wish to give a satisfactory answer, I should like to take this matter further. I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.