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Patients may have to show passports for hospital care in UK

Posted on April 20, 2015
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LONDON: Patients may have to produce a passport to prove their residence status when they require hospital care in England, under new government guidelines aimed at clamping down on health tourism, which costs the economy 2 billion pound a year.

The Department of Health rules require all patients to answer questions about their residence status in Britain whenever they seek access to a new course of treatment.

By law, only those who have been living in Britain for six months are eligible for hospital treatment on the UK taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS).

Patients may need to submit passports and immigration documents when their immigration status is in doubt, the Department of Health said.

Hospitals will also be able to charge short-term visitors from outside Europe 150 per cent of the cost of treatment.

The new rules came into force on April 6 for overseas visitors and migrants who use NHS hospitals in England, which is usually free for British citizens and permanent residents in the country.

Primary care and Accident & Emergency (A&E) care will continue to remain free for all.

The new rules are part of a crackdown on so-called “health tourism” by tourists and temporary visitors to the country.

Some estimates suggest that this costs the British economy up to 2 billion pound a year.

The Department of Health hopes to recoup up to 500 million pound a year by 2017-18 under the latest crackdown.

The measures include new charges for overseas visitors and migrants who use hospital care on the NHS and financial sanctions for NHS trusts which fail to identify and bill patients who should be charged.

A new health surcharge, also effective from April 6, for those staying beyond six months is set at 200 pound per year and a discounted amount of 150 pound per year for students.

It is payable at the same time as an individual makes their visa application and applicants are required to pay up-front for the total period of their UK visa.

“The health surcharge will play a vital role in ensuring Britain’s most cherished public service is provided on a basis that is fair to all who use it.

For generations, the British public have paid their taxes to help make the NHS what it is today – the surcharge will mean temporary migrants will also pay their way,” UK immigration and security minister James Brokenshire had said when the new charges were announced last month.

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