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Monday, 6 February 2017

Health Tourists Will Now Have To Pay Before They Get Treatment In UK

Overseas patients needing non-urgent treatment at hospital will be made to pay first under a major crackdown on health tourism.

From April hospitals will be legally obliged to charge patients upfront for procedures which are not deemed immediately necessary.

This includes hip or knee surgery, cataract removals and operations to remove hernias as well as certain scans and medications.

If patients are unable to pay, doctors will be told to make a decision, based on their clinical need, as to whether the treatment should go ahead anyway.

One in 14 people in England are on an NHS hospital waiting list. Some 3.7million are waiting to be admitted for routine treatment the highest figure for nearly a decade.

Nearly one in ten of those 350,000 people have been waiting for longer than the official maximum waiting time.

Nobody should have to wait more than 18 weeks for a routine operation such as a knee or hip replacement under NHS rules. The numbers waiting longer than the target have grown 163 per cent since 2012.

Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told the BBC: ‘The longer you wait for a hip or knee replacement the less likely you are to have good outcomes.’ Richard Murray, from the King’s Fund think tank, predicted that the numbers on the waiting list will keep rising.

Waiting lists are the longest they have been since early in 2008. The Department of Health said the number of operations carried out has soared so even though more people are waiting longer, the numbers getting treatment within target time is up.

NHS England said: ‘Last month more than 1.4million patients started consultant-led treatment and more than nine out of ten patients were waiting less than 18 weeks.’

But many may be instructed to return to their home countries and have the procedure there.

The rules will not apply to maternity care or any treatment considered potentially life-saving or immediately necessary.

This includes scans or treatment for cancer or heart conditions as well as operations to remove the appendix.

Hospitals are also being told to ask all new patients for passports and utility bills when they first arrive to check they are entitled to NHS care.

Those which fail to show they are collecting enough money from patients at the end of the year may be fined.

Last week a damning report from the Commons spending watchdog accused the NHS’s billing system for health tourism of being in chaos.

The Public Accounts Committee blamed hospital staff and GPs for failing even to identify which patients needed to be charged.

It coincided with a hard-hitting BBC documentary which revealed how one Nigerian mother who gave birth to quadruplets had racked up a bill of £500,000. Priscilla, 43, went into early labour at Heathrow after being turned away from the US, but was saved in the UK.