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Recover the cost of medical treatment from people not resident in the UK

Last updated: 01:21pm 16 May 2019

…whilst the NHS will always treat people in an emergency, no matter where they are from, we will recover the cost of medical treatment from people not resident in the UK.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.67

Our verdict

The National Health Service (NHS) provides necessary and urgent treatment to any patient who needs it. However, those who are not ordinarily resident in the UK, such as former residents living overseas, short-term migrants and people visiting from abroad, may have to contribute to NHS costs by paying for some treatments.

In October 2017, the government amended legislation on charges to overseas visitors, requiring hospitals to establish whether patients are eligible for free treatment, and to charge upfront those who are not eligible for non-urgent care. According to former Secretary for Health Jeremy Hunt, the new regulations will allow the NHS to recover £500 million per year by 2020.

The government completed a review of the amendments in December 2018 and found:

“the 2017 Amendment Regulations are largely working in the way they were intended”

It is worth noting that, despite government claims of “misconceptions around how the cost recovery regulations affect access to care”, several august bodies, including the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Public Health, have called for a suspension of NHS overseas visitor charges due to concerns about the impact on public health.

The government has amended legislation in order to fulfil this pledge and is recovering the cost of treatment from non-UK residents, so this policy is ‘done’. We will, however, be monitoring the government’s response to concerns from medical professionals about the impact of the changes, so follow this policy for updates.

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