Murnaghan Interview with Louise Bours, UKIP Health Spokesperson 22.02.15

Dermot Murnaghan


DERMOT MURNAGHAN: Now, what would UKIP do to the NHS?  Health has become one the party’s most controversial policy areas, the leader Nigel Farage has previously said a move towards an insurance based system will have to be debated but that is not party policy and tomorrow the party will unveil its health manifesto for the election.  Well Louise Bours is a UKIP MEP and is their spokesperson for health and she joins me now, a very good morning to you.  Well let’s get straight in on that.  In your speech tomorrow is the discussion of any kind of insurance based cover within the NHS going to be mentioned?

LOUISE BOURS: Absolutely not.  Obviously those views were mentioned by Nigel, his opinion as we’re all entitled to but as he rightly pointed out, we had a discussion within the party, an internal debate because obviously we are very democratic, we like to listen to what the party members want, what the public want and through that we have made our policy and absolutely not a whiff of privatisation.  

DM: But is it ruled out for good because Nigel Farage was actually talking about further down the line with population growth and the increasing pressures as we all know about on the NHS, so at some time it might have to be discussed?  

LOUISE BOURS: Ruled out completely, Dermot, ruled out completely.  Certainly we are looking at the manifesto for this parliament, absolutely and entirely ruled out.  

DM: Okay, so publicly funded as always, but you are going to find some extra money.  

LOUISE BOURS: We are going to find some extra money, three billion actually we’re going to find and that is going to be pumped directly into front line services because that’s what we think the people want.  I built this policy not around Westminster focus groups and people within that kind of Westminster bubble, I have been talking to real people, real people who use the NHS, real people who work within the NHS and that’s the important point, I created those policy groups and this policy I think is what the people want.  

DM: Well you are very frank, aren’t you?  You are one of those real people, your knowledge of the NHS before you got this job was at the user side, you are very frank and say you knew nothing about the NHS before this job?

LOUISE BOURS:  Actually, look, I knew exactly the same as Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham, which is absolutely zero.  

DM: Well one of them did have previous experience as Health Secretary.  

LOUISE BOURS: You know, so in that respect, no, I haven’t worked within the NHS but I think that actually gives me a unique view because I am looking at it from the same as everybody else, the users point of view and what the people want.  That’s why it was important for me obviously to speak to professionals who work within the industry, within the NHS and find out their experiences, both good and bad, and that was really important to me and hopefully what we have crafted here is something that will really show what people want from the NHS.  

DM: One of the things that has been said about the NHS, whoever is in charge of it of course, is that if adopt a more healthy lifestyle personally then things, pressures will ease on the National Health Service.  Now your leader, we know his love of smoking and he has certainly been on this programme talking about how he likes an odd drink or two and we see him pictured with a pint in his hand, do you think he is a good advertisement for that healthy lifestyle?

LOUISE BOURS: Well Nigel obviously went all of January without one drink entirely …

DM: Big deal!  

LOUISE BOURS: But seriously …

DM: So smoking and drinking?  

LOUISE BOURS: Absolutely, we have to look at prevention.  I think that 70% of things that are treated on the NHS are preventative.  We have to look at how we put out a really good positive message, however does that mean that I believe in a nanny state where we order people not to drink?  You know, people, we are adults, we must make our own choices and I think that’s very important but absolutely, we have to look at that kind of thing, prevention.  Obesity as well is obviously a big one that we’re going to have to look at.   

DM: Let’s return to the funding and you’ve talked, and your leader has talked before about making visitors, overseas visitors whether they be European or not, have some kind of medical insurance before they come in so if the fall ill, I mean are you prepared for that to cut both ways?  That the hundreds of thousands, the millions of Britons living in Europe will see their reciprocal rights to free healthcare, they will be cut.


DM: Are you telling all the Britons in Spain that you are going to have to pay for your care now?  

LOUISE BOURS: Absolutely, it has to work both ways and I think as Britons when we go abroad, if we travel abroad as a visitor or worker, I think Britons as a matter of course purchase life insurance or medical insurance or baggage insurance, I think it’s something that we do quite naturally, we don’t even think about it.  What we are saying is, what is the problem in asking people to do exactly the same when they come here?  So if you are a migrant worker or a visitor or a student, you should have medical insurance, that is absolutely fundamental.  

DM: But how would you check that then?  Would you check it at border control?  

LOUISE BOURS: Well I think obviously, in terms of the structure I think the easiest way to do that, it should be a condition of entry into the country through the visa process.  That is how I would …

DM: That’s something for the Border Agency then?

LOUISE BOURS: That is how I would do it, so when you apply for your visa I don’t see any reason at all why that information about medical insurance can’t be clearly …

DM: Would Europeans need visas then once we’ve left the EU, are Europeans going to need visas to get in here?  

LOUISE BOURS: Well that is not for me to decide but in terms of anybody coming to this country, I don’t think it is beyond the wit of man to be able to check that and check that they have medical insurance.  I am sure that is something that can be done.  

DM: So you are saying to Britons under a UKIP government, if you want to go on a short break to Barcelona or Paris for a few days, you need medical insurance because your EHIC card, that little card you can get now …

LOUISE BORS: I think we do that, I think that generally Dermot, people have that anyway.  I think that all of us who go for a trip, no matter how short or how long, we all tend to take out insurance. I think we do that quite naturally and I don’t think it would be a problem.

DM: Okay and the issue of foreign health workers, a huge number of foreign health workers helping out, making the NHS one of the mighty organisations it is now, you are going to weed out those who can’t speak good enough English?

LOUISE BOURS: Well I think obviously, I don’t think anybody wants to be treated by someone who can’t speak and write a good standard of English.

DM: Well if they are a great brain surgeon or something, I don’t care what language they speak.  

LOUISE BOURS: Well the profession I think themselves have set rules that people have to speak a good standard of spoken English and written English.  It has to be the standard that the profession requires, if they meet that standard then that’s actually fine.  

DM: You can understand that in terms of recruitment but what about those who are already there?  Some people may be reported, I don’t think my doctor or my anaesthetist, I don’t think that they speak good enough English, would a UKIP government go around and say okay, English lessons for you or you’re out?

LOUISE BOURS: I think that’s a bit of a … can I say that’s a daft question?  

DM: Well I don’t think it is because we’ve got the statistics haven’t we …

LOUISE BOURS: I think it is a bit of a daft question.  

DM: Well thank you very much indeed.  We’ve got the statistics, have we not, about tens of thousands of foreign workers in the NHS.  

LOUISE BOURS: Well if you cannot speak and write English adequately, you should not be working within the NHS.  However we do that, if we were in government, that’s years down the line but it is a fundamental thing.  The profession themselves want their nurses and doctors to speak and write English adequately, it’s fundamental and I believe patients within the NHS expect that too.

DM: Okay, Louise Bours, thank you very much indeed.  

LOUISE BOURS: Thank you Dermot.  

DM: UKIPs health spokesperson, I hope you don’t mind me calling you that.