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Government counts the cost of ‘health tourism’

Posted by Rachel Lucas

Medical professionals – including dentists – could be set to receive an extra £500 million per year as part of the government’s drive to clamp down on so-called “health tourists”.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on Tuesday (October 22nd) details of a study which looked specifically into how migrants tended to use the NHS.

It is estimated in the report that around £388 million is spent on those who find themselves needing care while in the UK who should actually be paying, but are then not processed and charged.

Furthermore, the study found that only 16 per cent of this figure is actually recovered.

Another problem is people who deliberately travel to the UK with the intention of getting free treatment on the NHS – which costs the country anything between £70 million and £300 million every year.

The government has said that this figure can be “significantly reduced” by developing a better cost recovery system and introducing measures designed to deter such abuse from happening.

Mr Hunt said: “Having a universal health service free at the point of use rightly makes us the envy of the world, but we must make sure the system is fair to the hardworking British taxpayers who fund it.”

As part of proposed changes to the Immigration Bill, migrants will be forced to pay a surcharge in order to access NHS healthcare – which it is believed will generate around £200 million per year.

Meanwhile, it is also hoped that the charge will act as a deterrent to many more people coming in from overseas to receive free treatment – potentially saving £300 million each year.

The government has said that even if only three-quarters of this combined figure is recovered, it would still pay for the salaries of thousands of health professionals’ salaries.

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