On 6th February 2017, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced that every National Health Service (NHS) trust will have a legal duty to charge foreign patients “upfront” unless they can prove they are eligible for non-urgent care.
From April this year, the law would be changed to make sure that the overseas patients made a “fair contribution” to healthcare they received. Once the law come into effect then, foreign patients could be refused operations unless they cover their costs in advance.
The health secretary has ordered hospitals to carry out strict nationality checks to prevent health tourists cheating the NHS. This new law means overseas patients for non-urgent treatment such as cataract removal or hip operation could now be turned away unless they agree to pay the NHS bill. If ineligible overseas patients cannot pay first then they will be refused from treatment unless their case is deemed urgent.
Mr Hunt said that the government have no problem with overseas patients using the NHS service as long as they make a fair contribution to the NHS, just as the British taxpayer does. The aim of these changes was to recover up to £500m a year by the middle of this Parliament to reinvest in the NHS.
According to the Department of Health, nobody would be refused from emergency treatment, whether they could pay or not. Under the new changes, immigrants from outside the Europe, who pay an immigration health surcharge, will also lose their right to free NHS fertility treatment.
The chair of the British Medical Association council, Dr Mark Porter said that it is hard to see how these new proposals will operate from scratch in just three months in an NHS, which is already incapable to cope with normal operations. He warned the government to be very careful not to demonise overseas patients.
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