Foreign patients place burden on British health system

Foreign patients who use the British Health Service (NHS) free of charge are costing taxpayers at least £62 million (about U.S. $124.6 million) a year, according to a secret U.K. Department of Health report.

But this figure does not include the cost of treating foreigners entitled to free health care – such as asylum seekers and students – who account for three out of four hospital visits by overseas patients:

  • If these patients are included, the cost to the NHS rises to up to £248 million (about U.S. $498.7 million).

  • Because just £30 million (about U.S. $60.3 million) of the charges which should be paid by foreign visitors is actually recovered by NHS trusts, taxpayers are left to pay the overall deficit of £216 million (about U.S. $434.2 million).

    "Hospitals are pursuing a 'don't ask, don't charge, and don't chase policy' when it comes to dealing with people who are not entitled to free treatment," says MP Ben Wallace, who uncovered the study under freedom of information laws. "It is disgraceful that millions of pounds of treatments are literally being given away to overseas visitors while at the same time Trust deficits are causing hospitals to close."

    Source: Jane Merrick, Foreign patients' free health treatment places £200m burden on NHS, Daily Mail, September 3, 2007.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 11 September 2007
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