Jeremy Corbyn suggests 9.5 million could be denied access to NHS under proposal to force patients to show passports

Department of Health examining whether patients should have to show two forms of ID to access some elements of NHS care

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Indy Politics

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of focusing on health tourism in order to "distract" from the issue of NHS funding.

The Labour leader said plans to make patients in England show their passports before receiving treatment on the NHS were ultimately "divisive and impractical".

"The last census showed that 9.5 million people in this country don't have passports," Mr Corbyn during Prime Minister's Questions.

"Rather than distracting people with divisive and impractical policies, could you provide the NHS and social care with the money that it needs to care for the people who need the support?"

The Department of Health is examining whether patients should have to show two forms of ID to access some elements of NHS care.

Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health, told the Public Accounts Committee some trusts were triallling the proposal.

He said: "There are individual trusts like Peterborough who are doing that, who are reporting that it makes a big difference and there you are saying 'please come with two forms of identity, your passport and your address' and they use that to check whether people are eligible or not."

He said the Department was looking at "whether more trusts should be going down the route, that some trusts within London and elsewhere have gone on, forcing people to prove identity", adding: "And where that is proportionate? [Whether in just some places] or whether you want to apply it to the whole country. Those are the questions that we are looking at."

Citing National Audit Office estimates, Mr Corbyn said the cost of health tourism was "over 100 times less than the £22 billion of cuts the NHS is facing from this Government".

The Prime Minister insisted her Government would spend half a trillion pounds on the NHS between 2015 and 2020.

She added: "You ask about a process to ensure that people who are receiving NHS treatment are entitled to receive that NHS treatment.

"For many years there has been a concern about health tourism, about people turning up in the UK, accessing health services and not paying for them.

"We want to make sure that those who are entitled to use the services are indeed able to see those free at the point of delivery, that we deal with health tourism and those who should be paying for the use of our health service."

Ms May, appearing in the Commons ahead of the Autumn Statement, added:  "We can only afford to pay for the National Health Service and social care if we have a strong economy creating wealth - and that's precisely what you're going to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a few minutes' time."

The Tory party were also attacked for failing to mention the NHS in the Government's 72-page autumn spending statement.