UK Government Studies Visitor And Migrant Use of NHS

By Editorial 24 October, 2013

The UK Department of Health has published a study on the use of the National Health Service by temporary migrants and British expats, highlighting that in many cases chargeable fees are not recovered and suggesting new measures to increase payment rates.

The study estimates that GBP388m is spent each year on chargeable patients who find themselves in need of healthcare, including British nationals who are currently residing abroad, but that only 16 percent of this amount is currently recovered by the NHS. It also notes that a further GBP70m to GBP300m is lost due to "health tourists" who come to the UK specifically to get treatment.

According to the report, British expats sometimes return to the UK for the treatment of chronic conditions and to access maternity services. It notes that it is often difficult to identify that they are living overseas, because they have retained a UK address, General Practitioner (doctor) and NHS number. Further, many expats are unaware that their treatment is chargeable, and may become "resentful" when this is explained to them. It suggests that a check on expat status could be made, with patient consent, with the Department for Work and Pensions.

Measures being introduced by the Government include a new health surcharge for overseas visitors, which the Government believes will generate an estimated GBP200m; a new independent adviser on visitor and migration cost recovery; a new cost recovery unit; incentives for hospitals to report treatment of residents from elsewhere in the European Economic Area, so that costs can be recovered from their home countries; and a simpler registration process.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was quoted as saying that the UK has "one of the most generous systems in the world when it comes to health care for foreign visitors, but it's time for action to ensure the NHS is a national health service, not an international one." He added: "We are confident our new measures will make the NHS fairer and more sustainable for the British families and taxpayers it was set up to serve."

The surcharge will be set at around GBP150 for students and at around GBP200 for other temporary migrants. The Government has highlighted that this contrasts with other countries such as Spain, where students pay GBP50 a month towards their healthcare costs, and Australia, which charges GBP260 a year for restricted private health insurance for students.

Tags: Insurance | United Kingdom | Expats | Health Insurance | Healthcare | Welfare | Healthcare |


News Archive