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Practices asked to help recover costs from EEA patients

Primary care staff are being asked to help recover up to £4,500 a year from any European patient who requires healthcare while in UK.

New guidance from the Department of Health suggests ways in which practices can ‘help’ to ensure the NHS is paid by the patient’s country if they are referred to secondary care.

Practice staff can do this by flagging patients from the European Economic Areas (EEA) who should pay for any secondary care they are referred to, as well as asking EEA patients if they hold an ’S1 form’ or are eligible for one.

In England, the NHS provides free hospital treatment to people who are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, otherwise they will be directly charged for their treatment unless they are able to supply a European Health Insurance Card (EGIC), or S1 or S2 documentation – which guarantees that their costs will be paid by another state.

No one can be charged directly for NHS primary medical care in the UK. However, according to the DH, nurses and GPs should flag any EEA patients if referring them to secondary care.

The guidance states: ‘If you are aware that a patient is chargeable or holds an EHIC, S1 or S2, it is helpful if you let the hospital know this when referring the patient to secondary care.’

The hospital’s overseas visitor manager will then recover the costs of the hospital care from the responsible country, the guidance says.

The guidance itself is non-contractual, but the GP contract does state that practices must record the migration status of patients upon registration following changes made in April.