No NHS Treatment for International Students?

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It has emerged that the government is considering introducing strict new regulations on the NHS which would prevent thousands of international students from using it. UK newspaper The Sunday Times found that Conservative ministers hope to enforce new rules that would reduce access to the NHS to only those ‘immigrants' had to have been living in the UK for a whole year.

Such laws would have a huge impact on all international students studying in the UK, and critics are already claiming that this would be the latest in a number of decisions putting overseas students off coming to the UK. Indeed, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, Dominic Scott, said that if any such decision was made, it would be "yet one more sign that the UK is less welcoming" to international students. Paul White, from the University of Sheffield, echoed this view, arguing "the message that the introduction of such charging [for healthcare] would convey would be very negative".

This reaction was matched by contributor Erik Redli. A recent Slovakian graduate currently living in London, he knows the realities of the life of an international student in the UK, and believes that restricting use of the NHS simply isn't right:

"I think that if anyone is granted a student visa or otherwise accepted to the country, he should be given basic medical treatment. To avoid abuse, students should produce their university ID card in hospitals and to GPs."

"Making them pay for the care would not help. Last Sunday I visited my friend- a central European who studies in London. Many of the students are living on a tough budget and would not have money to pay for healthcare. Yes, there are some who abuse the system, but international students can not be made scapegoats."

The idea to limit the use of the NHS was first floated at the end of February when Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, told Parliament that "we have to ask whether it is appropriate for us to be giving free healthcare to short-term visitors, to students, to people on temporary visas".

However, since then, a report entitled The Economic Costs and Benefits of International Students, has actually revealed that overseas students use far fewer resources during their stay than local residents. Last week's report, commissioned by the University of Sheffield, claims that the average international student consumes £6,905 of public services each a year, whilst the average local costs £8,388. What's more, it was revealed that the overseas students in Sheffield brought a net economic benefit of £120.3 million to the city in 2012.

Are you an international student in the UK? What are your experiences of the NHS? Would it put you off studying in Britain if you didn't have access to free healthcare? Let us know below.

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