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NHS set to miss target on recovering overseas patient costs

The government is on course to miss its target of recovering up to £500m a year from treating overseas visitors who are not entitled for free treatment in NHS hospitals.

The report from National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the National Health Service (NHS) and the Department of Health have made progress to recover some of the money by treating overseas visitors who are not entitled for free NHS hospital treatment. However, if present trends continue and the charging rules remain the same then the government’s target of recovering up to £500m a year by 2017-18 will not be achieved.

The Department of Health launched a programme in 2014, which was intended to extend the scope of charging and implement current regulations more effectively. Rising overseas visitor income is one of several measures intended to support the financial position of the NHS.

The head of National Audit Office, Amyas Morse said hospital trust remain some way from fulfilling the requirement to charge and recover the cost of treating overseas visitors. In the previous 2 years, the total amounts charged and the amounts actually recovered have increased. Much of this rise is the result of changes to the charging rules for treatment of overseas visitors.

The Chair of BMA Council, Dr Mark Porter, said the systems to charge migrants and short-term visitors need to be practical, efficient and economic and must not endanger access to healthcare for those who need it. The duty of a doctor is to treat the patient, not to act as a border guard. It is very important that the charging systems for overseas visitors do not stop patients from receiving necessary medical care.

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