NHS charges health tourists upfront unless they can prove they are eligible for non-urgent care, England's Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced recently. He said the new health law would be implemented starting April to ensure that foreign patients make a “fair contribution” to the healthcare they receive. This means that anyone flying to the UK for non-urgent treatment could now be turned away unless they agree to pay the NHS bill upfront.
Non-urgent treatments include hip operations or cataract removals. Several hospitals have already started introducing upfront charges for overseas patients. To help officials establish entitlement, or confirm their qualification for the treatment, foreign patients are required to provide a passport and utility bill.
The move to charge foreign patients upfront has been started after a vast majority of NHS trusts had to chase patients overseas for hospital debts they have incurred. The result is often fruitless. Currently, some hospitals are still trapped in this problem, chasing debts of patients who have left the country, The Telegraph reports.
The Department of Health has been failing to recover hundreds of millions of pounds in the middle of a heavily disorganized cost recovery system. The Public Accounts Committee have reported last week about this issue, pushing NHS charges on foreign patients then and there. "We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS - as long as they make a fair contribution, just as the British taxpayer does," Health Secretary Hunt said in a statement.
He added that the government aims to recover up to £500 million a year by the middle of this year's Parliament. England is making it clear that it intends to use the money to reinvest it in patient care. The statement have been made after being publicly criticized of the undesirable effects of implementing cost cutting measures.
According to the BBC, the new law will give the initiative to every NHS-funded health facility to work out whether they take payment upfront, or allow patients to sign a form to agree to a longer-term payment plan. Patients will be told then and there that treatment is chargeable before care begins. On the other hand, if urgent care is needed, NHS charges will have to wait.