2020health comments on Health Tourism in the NHS

The Department of Health estimates in a report out today that the overall cost of treating overseas patients is £2 billion a year.

Julia Manning, 2020health comments that

“The issue we are concerned about is deliberate health tourism. That is people who deliberately come to the UK for treatment or to give birth who have not paid taxes in this country.

We have no way of estimating the costs of such health tourism in primary care – the current estimates are only for hospitals.

Further, these estimates come from those who have been invoiced – those we know about – not those we don’t know about.

We already know that this is a huge problem for NHS hospitals and practices close to airports and seaports. It is estimated that about 10% of beds in these hospitals are occupied by those not eligible for NHS care.

GPs are opposing being required to ask about eligibility; but hospitals, opticians, dentists and pharmacists have legally had to for many years.

GPs need to become accountable and not collude with fraud – the NHS budget is under huge pressure – and this is about principle: we need to know where NHS money is being spent and where it is being mis-spent. However, all NHS staff need to know that they will be supported – by management, government and the law.

Solutions:

  • Simplify system so we know who is eligible
  • Patients must be required to pay up front – including those from the EU – and they can claim back. Chasing payments is a total waste of time and money. Such a system has already been pioneered by Andy Finlay at the West Middlesex University Hospital: stabilise and pay for treatment or stabilise and discharge. Most patients chose to pay upfront.
  • Electronic patient records will fundamentally change our ability to track treatment and ensure that only those who are eligible receive NHS care free at the point of use”
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