Prime Minister's Questions, factchecked

Published: 22nd Nov 2016

Cancer survival rates at record levels

“We are now having cancer survival rates at a record high.”

Theresa May, 12 October 2016

This is correct. Cancer survival rates in England are at a record high for adults aged 15 and over.

About 60% of patients diagnosed with cancer in 1998 survived for at least one year, compared to 70% of patients diagnosed in 2013. 2013 is as far as this year’s figures cover.

Between 1998 and 2009 the proportion of patients surviving five years or more went from 42% to almost 50%.

These figures are designed to show “real progress in cancer outcomes” over many years.

The estimates adjust for things like changes in the age and gender balance in the population over time, and whether certain types of cancer have become more or less common. This makes it easier to see if the likelihood of survival has changed over time.

Survival rates vary widely depending on the type of cancer. For example, adjusted for age, an estimated 96% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2014 survived for at least one year. In comparison, 34% of men and 40% of women diagnosed with lung cancer in the same period survived for at least one year.

Passports for the NHS?

Yesterday, we learned that pregnant women will be forced to hand over their passports at NHS hospitals. No ultrasound without photographic ID—heavily pregnant women sent home on icy roads to get a passport. Are these really the actions of a country where it doesn’t matter where you were born?

Jeremy Corbyn, 12 October 2016

This refers to one hospital in particular rather than to all NHS hospitals, although the government is looking into rolling out identity checks more widely.

It was announced on 11 October that all non-emergency maternity patients at St George’s Hospital in London will be asked to provide proof of ID or right to reside in the UK before being treated, as part of a pilot.

The hospital said that “Hospitals are required to check patients for their eligibility when accessing non-emergency NHS treatment. We are not doing this effectively enough at present, and are looking at ways in which we can improve this.” It also said that patients without ID will be referred to the “Overseas Patient Team for specialist document screening”.

Anyone who is not “ordinarily resident in the UK” can be charged for the use of NHS hospital services in England and Wales, except for emergency services such as A&E. There are one or two exceptions to this, such as refugees and asylum seekers.

It has been (roughly) estimated that the NHS spends around £2 billion a year treating patients who aren’t ordinarily resident.

EU citizens don’t have to pay. There are arrangements in place by which the UK can charge their home government for the care they receive.

Department of Health guidelines say that “all relevant NHS bodies will need to have systems in place to support charging of overseas visitors…[Staff should] identify, without discrimination, all patients who may be liable to charges.” The guidelines suggest that this should be done by interviewing patients to find out whether or not they should be charged.

The guidelines also say that “booking-in staff, ward clerks etc. will need to be prepared to ask for basic supporting evidence. Being unable to provide evidence does not mean that someone should be refused treatment, only that they should be referred to the OVM for further investigation.” This seems to be exactly what St George’s Hospital has proposed to do.

What about the rest of the NHS?

The government is looking at whether or not patients should be required to bring identification when using non-emergency NHS England services. As with St George’s Hospital, the focus is on finding more effective ways of identifying patients eligible to be charged—which in theory should be happening already.

Chris Wormald, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health, told a committee of MPs that “for the majority of free healthcare, hospitals do not routinely either check identity or charge, so we are trying to introduce this system”. He also mentioned that some hospitals are trialling a system of asking patients for two forms of identification, their passport and proof of address.

The Department of Health told us that "The NHS is a nationalnot an internationalhealth service and we are determined to stamp out abuse of the system to ensure it remains free at the point of need in this country. We consulted earlier this year on extending the charging of migrants and visitors using the NHS. We will set out further steps in due course to ensure we deliver on our objective to recover up to £500 million a year by the middle of this Parliament.”

Update 22 November 2016

We updated this piece to include information on what the government has said about the future use of identification and charging those eligible across the NHS.


"Naming and shaming" companies with foreign workers

“The Home Secretary’s flagship announcement [at the Conservative Party Conference] was to name and shame companies that employ foreign workers.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 12 October 2016

“The policy he has just described was never the policy announced. There was no naming and shaming, no published list of foreign workers, no published data.”

Theresa May, 12 October 2016

Ms May is technically correct to say that the policy floated at the Conservative Party conference was, on the face of it, only about recording how many foreign workers companies have. But Mr Corbyn has a point—the Home Secretary did seem to envisage naming those businesses in comments the following day.

Amber Rudd didn’t actually mention this policy in her conference speech on 4 October. It was reportedly included in a briefing email sent to journalists afterwards. We don’t have a copy of the original, but assuming copies circulating are valid, it said the government was considering whether employers should have to

“ clear about the proportion of their workforce which is international, as is the case in the US”.

The requirement to be “clear” was widely reported as being a “list” of foreign workers, but there’s no suggestion that individual names would be passed to the government. The note envisages a percentage.

The note doesn’t specify whether companies would have to “be clear” about this percentage just to the government, or to the general public as well. Ms Rudd seemed to signal that it was about making the figure public in an interview on 5 October. She didn’t challenge the interviewer when he described the proposal in terms of “naming and shaming” businesses.

Other ministers, like Mrs May today, have since ruled out naming and shaming, saying that the policy is just about information-gathering.

Leaving the single market

“The Treasury forecast [for leaving to the European single market] is a £66 billion loss to the economy [and] 7.5% of the GDP.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 12 October 2016

This appears to be confusing the Treasury’s estimate for the size of the UK economy (GDP) with its estimate for lost tax revenue, should the UK drop out of the single market.

In April 2016, the Treasury estimated that after 15 years UK GDP could be between 5.4% and 9.5% smaller than it otherwise would have been, if the UK pursues trade outside of the single market and relied only on its membership of the World Trade Organisation. Picking the middle of the top and bottom estimate, that’s UK GDP 7.5% smaller than it would have been.

As a consequence of lower GDP, it estimated that after 15 years the government would collect between £38 billion and £66 billion less tax revenue than it would have done, so £52 billion on average.

Japanese-owned companies in the UK

“140,000 people in Britain work for Japanese-owned companies. They've made it clear that those jobs and investment depend on Single Market access.”

Jeremy Corbyn, 12 October 2016

We contacted the Japanese Embassy in London to ask for the original source of this estimate. It told us that the estimate had been produced by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and linked us to the original research.

Unfortunately no-one in our office speaks Japanese. We’ll update this piece when we’ve found out a bit more about the research this claim was based on.

Both the Japanese government and businesses have formally stated their desire for the UK to remain closely integrated with the European single market, and outlined what Japanese businesses would like to see from a future trade relationship between the UK and EU.

The 15-page message raises the possibility of Japanese firms moving their headquarters outside Britain:

“Japanese businesses with their European headquarters in the UK may decide to transfer their head-office function to Continental Europe if EU laws cease to be applicable in the UK after its withdrawal.”


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