This site is intended for health professionals only
Friday 28 October 2016 Instagram
Share |

£500m for the NHS if 'health tourists' reduced

£500m for the NHS if 'health tourists' reduced

£500m for the NHS if 'health tourists' reduced

Around £500 million could be pumped back into the health service by reducing ‘health tourism’ an independent study shows. 

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the need to make changes to the current system is now clear. 

The findings, published by the Department of Health, estimate that £388 million is spent each year on patients who are not entitled to have free healthcare in the UK. 

Currently, around 16% of the costs are recovered by the NHS. 

In addition, there is a cost of between £70 and £300 million from people who deliberately travel to the UK to get free NHS treatments, which could be significantly reduced, the study claims. 
The Immigration Bill proposes a new “health surcharge” which could generate an estimated £200 million for the NHS. 

In total, the £388 million from patients in the UK, the £200 million generated through the surcharge, and the deterrent effect on the £70-£300 million from health tourists will together raise or save well over half a billion pounds.

The surcharge will be set at around £150 for students and at around £200 for other temporary migrants – raising up to £1.9 billion over a ten year period based on approximately 490,000 applicants who would be required to pay.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “These independent reports prove this is a serious problem that the government was right to address. 

“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.” 

But Dr Peter Carte, chair of the Royal College of Nursing, believes an open debate is still needed before what he would consider to be a "radical overhaul" of the health service. 

He said: “The NHS already has a system in place to charge non-EU visitors to the UK for certain services, and introducing a charging system that added to nurses’ workloads which could further take away time from patients – there is also no indication of how much it is going to cost to set this new process up.

“Any charges should not override the principle of access for all in need. We should not place further barriers on those with physical and mental health needs which may escalate to emergencies, which would also place further pressure on the NHS. We would also be concerned about the impact on vulnerable groups in this category particularly children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, and their access to services.”

Having introduced measures to recover at least £500 million, the government will look to take further steps to recover a larger proportion of the total cost in future.


Whilst I despise the odious Hunt and this awful governments attack on the NHS and nurses in particular, I think measures are needed to address health tourism. Whilst not wanting to blame the ills of this country on "foreigners" - which the government are happy to allow to happen, there is a problem with lack of facilities for first contact staff to deal with this.

Whilst I have no objection to any foreign national wherever they are from obtaining emergency treatment whether in ED/WIC/OOH for something that could have lasting effects on their health or cause them great pain; the vast majority of foreign nationals attending in OOH/WIC/ED are from Europe, who visit friends/relatives and think they can get long standing problems sorted out whilst they are here.

I once had a 21 yr old Portuguese male who attended with a pregnant older woman (they were not a couple but she was obviously an older female UK resident relative), the male could not speak any English whatsoever, despite the females allegations that he had been here for 2 years working as a waiter. They could not name his workplace. The reason for attending the "urgent and emergency care" centre was because he had vomited once in the week and felt nauseous over the last couple of days. They felt he should be admitted there and then for "tests." On a Friday night.

This male was smiling, obs were fine, there was absolutely no reason to admit this male. I dug my heels in and refused to refer, and even hinted that I simply did not believe that he had been here for 2 years and could not speak a word of English or even name his workplace. Then through pique, the woman accompanying let slip that he had seen a doctor in Portugal recently who suggested the tests. I advised him to return to his doctor in Portugal for his appropriate tests. And just hoped that the woman did not complain, which she didn't. Obviously realised that they had been rumbled.

I have lost count of the amount of 4/5/6 months pregnant Polish women who have turned up in the WIC/OOH care centre, who have Polish medications and cannot speak any English, and have no records in this country. Practices report that once they have had their babies and all immunisations and follow up care, they then return to Poland and are only occasionally seen when returning on holiday to see relatives. No doubt whilst claiming child benefit from the UK.

Colleagues complain of similar incidents. A Ukranian man who arrogantly and aggressively pushed for admittance as he had a urine infection and wanted a scan there and then (Saturday evening.) A Czech woman who attended ED and wanted her long term menstrual problems dealt with- but quickly as she had to go home at the end of the week. (They were visiting to see if they wanted to work here.)

There is also a problem with former UK citizens who have upped sticks and have lived in places like Spain for many years, denigrating this country and our NHS. Why they think they can just turn up suddenly because they now have a long term condition that needs treatment which is too expensive abroad when they have not been paying taxes for 20-30 years, heaven only knows. I have had experience of a 65 year old man who moved to Spain 30 years ago because "Britain is too full of foreigners!" He was quite happy to return to an NHS hospital staffed by foreign nurses and doctors, to receive expensive cardiac treatment on the NHS. He receives a reduced UK pension in Spain because he has not paid in enough contributions. Maybe ex-pats should think of this before they go.

My local practice has South Africans (white), with broad accents, who decide to pop to the UK every now and again for treatment. They want everything NOW, complain about a wait to see a nurse or doctor; and whilst they are in the consulting room, complain about the NHS and how superior the south African system is.

I have dealt with emergencies in ED of various nationalities, one US citizen springs to mind who was knocked down and injured badly; because he looked the other way when crossing the road. These people need to be seen and treated appropriately.

But in my experience most health tourism comes from Europe and ex pats. We will see how many Bulgarian and Romanians start to flock to our first contact centres next year. I am absolutely dreading it.

Ads by Google

You are leaving

You are currently leaving the Nursing in Practice site. Are you sure you want to proceed?