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Non-EU patients to face 150% charge for NHS treatment

Patients from outside the EU are to be charged 150% of the cost of NHS treatment under plans to crackdown on health tourism, the Government announced today.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has outlined plans for the NHS to recover £300m a year by charging visitors and short-term migrants from outside the European Economic Area an extra £50 on top of every £100 of treatment.

He is also looking at introducing an NHS surcharge for visitors from outside the EEA when they apply to come to the UK for longer than six months, or apply to extend their stay, which could raise as much as £200m a year.

However the BMA has warned that any plans to charge migrants or visitors need to be ‘practical, economic and efficient’ to avoid doctors not having to act as ‘border guards’.

The Department of Health revealed in June that the NHS will receive an extra 25% on top of the cost of every procedure they perform for an EEA migrant or visitor with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in a scheme to be introduced this autumn.

It said today that it is also exploring options for ‘recovering the costs’ of primary care services and is pressing ahead with schemes to charge visitors for prescriptions and any services beyond a GP appointment.

It rolled back on proposals to charge migrants for GP appointments, after the BMA voted to oppose the charges for NHS care.

The DH said that the non-EEA charging scheme, to be introduced next spring, will be backed by new registration and IT systems, and that ‘financial sanctions’ will be in place for trusts who fail to identify patients to recoup costs from.

Mr Hunt said: ‘We have no problem with international visitors using the NHS as long as they pay for it - just as British families do through their taxes.’

‘These plans will help recoup up to £500 million a year, making sure the NHS is better resourced and more sustainable at a time when doctors and nurses on the frontline are working very hard.’

However BMA chair, Dr Mark Porter, called for more detail about the scheme.

He said: ‘Anyone accessing NHS services should be eligible to do so but a doctor’s duty is to treat the patient that’s in front on them, not to act as border guard. Any plans to charge migrants and short term visitors need to be practical, economic and efficient and must not jeopardise access to healthcare for those who need it.’

‘Without more detail, there are question marks over whether or not these proposals will be workable and if the NHS has the infrastructure and resources necessary to administrate a cost-effective charging system. Plans to fine hospitals who fail to recoup costs would see them punished twice over, to the detriment of other services.’


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Readers' comments (7)

  • I can see it now ...GPs surgeries full of non EU immigrants with serious diseases they're not allowed to refer to secondary care. Will any of the money saved in hospital go to fund the inevitable increase in demand for GPs to treat these people instead ...of cause it won't..does Mr Hunt even think this might be an issue? Why would he...GPs aren't part of the NHS

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  • Simple - make all non EU visa applicants have NHS health insurance as part of the application - collect in advance.

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  • So a non eu migrant suddenly becomes psychotic ? What happens then?
    Or presents with coughing blood ?

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  • As long as the onus of checking eligibility to services does not fall on GPs, it is an issue that certainly needs to be dealt with.

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  • Why are GP services free? any one not paying taxes should be responsible for their own medical costs surley?

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  • I have a refugee patient whose family say they don't have anymore money to pay for hospital appts.So as a GP i am left to treat secondary care specialists work!

    I am not fit to treat such patients who actually need specialist care.

    I am a G.P.

    What do i do?

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  • surely we will charge these patients in GP also, its private work after all. I currently work in Canada and an office visit is $40 for a Candian who doesn't have their health card or hasn't registered for health care, isfrom another province etc. We charge $150 to anyone from overseas. Why not the same in the UK. Of course you can do it for free if the case of someone who is vulnerable and cannot pay if you like.

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