Having to show ID for NHS treatment is not a problem

I live in Brittany, France. It is routine for hospitals to ask for proof of identity at the start of treatment, either carte d’identité (ID card) or passport, as well as closely scrutinising the means of payment such as the carte vitale (card issued by the state to show entitlement to healthcare) and assurance mutuelle (top-up insurance for conditions not reimbursed at 100% by the state). When I first moved here six years ago I found it strange that you had to go into the finance office with the paperwork before anything clinical happened, but I now accept that it is a necessary part of keeping the well-oiled French healthcare system running. People seeking medical help in the UK should not fear the proposed changes but welcome them as a means to providing what should eventually become a better service (Show your passport for NHS treatment, 22 November).
Mark Bennett
Billio, France

I have been resident in Peterborough for 30 years. I am all in favour of getting people to pay what they should, but the Peterborough system is cumbersome and annoying. Two questions arise in my mind every time I have to get out the documents and take them with me to the hospital. First, when one has established one’s right once, why can this fact not be put on one’s medical record so that one does not have to do it repeatedly? Second, if one has been on a local GP’s list for some years and been seeing them from time to time, why can this fact not be conveyed to the hospital and put on one’s record?

I hope that the accounts people who suppose that Peterborough already has a good answer to the problem of getting people to pay will consider these questions.
Jim Haigh

I have in front of me my official NHS medical card showing my name, address, date of birth, doctor and NHS number. I have never had to show this to anyone, which makes me wonder why I was issued with it so many years ago. I would not object if I had to produce it in order to obtain medical treatment, even retrospectively after an emergency.
Dan van der Vat

Three times in the past week, I have been asked to prove my identity – once when picking up a parcel, once in a mobile phone shop and once in a bank. And now there’s talk of having to prove one’s identity to get treatment at hospitals.

While I applaud these organisations’ attempts to curtail fraud and theft, I’m concerned that all take the same flawed approach.

Many of us have passports, of course. Some have the alternative – a photographic driving licence. But no British citizen is required either to have or to carry either of these documents. Those who prefer not to drive and to staycation must find life very hard.

And then there’s the need to prove one’s address. Organisations require an original utility bill or bank statement – not one printed at home. But those same organisations are often at the forefront when it comes to cutting out paper and moving us all online.

The problem is one of our own making. Some time back, we were told each of us would have to have an identity card. Millions have them in other countries, and find life easier as a result. But this was going to be forced on us, so we Britons objected.

Instead, it seems we have to carry an increasing array of bulky documents around with us in case someone wants us to prove who we are.

Personally, I’d prefer to carry an identity card – something like a bank card with a chip and a pin. Others might not want one, and that’s fine. It they want to weigh themselves down with paperwork, that’s their choice. It isn’t mine!
Colin Maunder
Martlesham Heath, Suffolk

It does matter that the NHS is being abused by people from abroad seeking free treatment. I know neighbours who bring relatives in to do just that. It matters because we have to pay abroad and we have paid for this service over three generations. Rachel Clarke (I’m a doctor, not a gatekeeper turning ‘health tourists’ away, 23 November) is being naive – and anyway, what are managers for?
Jenny Bushell

Nye Bevan wrote in answer to Tory critics of the proposed NHS potentially providing free healthcare to foreigners: “The whole agitation has a nasty taste. Instead of rejoicing at the opportunity to practice a civilised principle, Conservatives have tried to exploit the most disreputable emotions in this among many other attempts to discredit socialised medicine.”
Ted Watson

What is the problem? I had to cut short a holiday in France in September after a visit to the local hospital A&E department, where I was advised to go home within three days and arrange for an urgent colonoscopy. I had to show my passport at the admission desk and provide details of where I lived etc.

The treatment was excellent and as the French do not appear to use A&E as a proxy GP there were no great numbers in the waiting room. We received a bill one month after we arrived home and can claim back any surplus above what a French national would have paid. The bill was only €138 for four hours’ treatment in the hospital and the advice was spot-on. Letting someone examine my passport seemed a small price to pay.
Toni Reilly

Those who do not travel or those who cannot afford it may not have a passport. But everyone who is registered with a GP should have an NHS medical card and number, which states that it is proof that that person is entitled to NHS treatment.
Katharine Makower

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters