Health tourism ‘show passport’ plan

Published: Monday 13th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Patients could be required to show their passports at hospitals under new government guidelines to tackle health tourism, according to a report.

The Department of Health (DoH) issued guidance to hospitals in which it said services has a “legal obligation” to ensure patients are entitled to free healthcare, the Daily Mail reported.

Measures to screen patients for eligibility include forms in outpatient and A&E wards asking them for their passport number and expiry date, nationality, GP name and NHS number and health bodies could impose fines for any lapses.

People living in the UK for more than six months are entitled to free care but there are fears over abuses of the system by “health tourists” – foreign nationals flying into the UK to use the NHS.

Roger Goss of Patient Concern told the Daily Mail: “It’s a worthwhile price to pay to attempt to recover the tens of millions owed by health tourists.

“If it is successful, the money recouped could be invested in better care for those patients who are entitled to it for free.”

The DoH said it hoped the measure could recoup at least £500 million a year by 2017-18, according to the paper.

In February, the DoH was reportedly set to introduce a pilot scheme to test the feasibility of GPs asking their patients for proof they are eligible for free NHS care, with doctors asked to identify patients who should be paying for the treatment they receive.

An official study in 2013 estimated that £388 million is spent each year on patients in England who should already be paying for their care but are not being charged by the NHS. The report said just 16% of costs are being recovered.

It added that the cost of people who come to England with the purpose of getting free treatment on the NHS could be anywhere between £70 million and £300 million.

Published: Monday 13th April 2015 by The News Editor

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