‘Health tourists’ to face upfront fees
Hospital staff will be required to ask patients for proof of identity under legislation which comes into force on Monday.
Patients resident outside Britain will be required to pay for non-urgent care. Accident & Emergency departments and meetings with GPs will remain free to all, and asylum seekers are exempt.
Health tourism has been claimed to cost the NHS £2bn a year. Ministers said the new law would support “a cherished national institution that is paid for by British taxpayers”.
Each NHS trust has been issued Department of Health guidance – known as the Ordinary Residence Tool – instructing them on questions to ask and documents to request to prove residence.
Separate guidance warns trusts against targeting questions to non-white patients or those whose first language is not English.
Trusts are told: “This is clearly unacceptable and longstanding guidance to the NHS has advised that each patient must be treated the same in assessing for charges.”
Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy said: "We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS as long as they make a fair financial contribution, just as the British taxpayer does.”
Earlier this year, a Public Accounts Committee report found the NHS had collected £289m from overseas patients in 2015-16 – only about half the amount it had invoiced.