HC Deb 19 July 1965 vol 716 cc1103-5
35. Mr. Murray

asked the Minister of Health if he will give details of the countries with which the United Kingdom has reciprocal arrangements in health matters; and with which other countries this country is endeavouring to get reciprocal agreements.

Mr. Loughlin

The social security reciprocal agreements with Belgium, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia include provisions for medical treatment for British residents on certain conditions; Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Yugoslavia also provide treatment for British short-term visitors. The New Zealand health services are available to all British people and there are arrangements with the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands—excluding Sark—for visitors. There are also limited agreements with Australia, Israel and Malta. No new agreements are at present under negotiation.

May I apologise for the length of this reply.

Mr. Murray

In thanking my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask him whether, in view of the small number of progressive countries supplying reciprocal health services, he will consider special arrangements for holidaymakers, particularly in the United States, where a constituent of mine has just had to pay over £900 for medical treatment while on holiday? This sort of thing causes a great deal of hardship, and I wonder whether some plan can be considered.

Mr. Loughlin

There are difficulties when people from this country travel abroad in countries where there are no reciprocal agreements. My Department issues circulars to try to guide people, and, indeed, to advise them that it is necessary in many instances to take out insurance against any contingency. It is very difficult to arrive at reciprocal agreements with many countries because they have not got health services comparable with ours, and it would be very difficult for a Government to provide for British subjects a health service which is better than that which they provide for their own people.

Mr. Cooper

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that at 12 o'clock today the B.B.C. issued an entirely misleading and inaccurate statement on this very subject? Will he ensure that the B.B.C. gives proper publicity to the comprehensive statement which he has just made?

Mr. Loughlin

I cannot be responsible for the B.B.C.'s publications, but I hope that it will take note of the statement that was made today and give it the necessary publicity.

Dr. Wyndham Davies

In view of the dollar shortage, would not it be extremely valuable if the Minister took account of his hon. Friend's remark and charged American visitors to this country, to help our own doctors to stay in this country?

Mr. Loughlin

We give a good Samaritan service to any visitor to this country, and I hope that we shall continue to do so, irrespective of which side is in Government. It would be very difficult to turn down people who needed emergency treatment. We take precautions against any person trying to come to this country for the purpose of abusing the Health Service.

Forward to