In an attempt to combat health tourism, providers of NHS treatment have now been required to make sure that patients in England are eligible to receive free care whereas patients, ineligible for free NHS care, now have to pay upfront.
The crackdown on health tourism officially came into effect back in October, however, a number of hospitals have been trialling the scheme for much longer.
One hospital, which has been trialling the scheme since February of this year, has seen the number of women from outside Britain giving birth on the NHS decrease by 90 per cent. An internal report from the hospital showed that since the new measures were introduced, only 18 patients needed to be charged for the care that they received. Prior to trialling the health tourism crackdown, St George’s trust estimated that it was losing £4.6million a year to health tourism, the majority of which was in maternity services.
The new measures trialled by St George’s trust requires every pregnant woman to prove that they are eligible for free care by bringing in two forms of identification, such as a passport or driving licence, and a utility bill confirming that they had lived at a UK address for at least a year.
Responding to the success of the health tourism crackdown, Dr Julia Reid MEP (UKIP’s health spokesperson) said: “This is excellent news for hospitals like St George’s, who are still owed £1.75 million by mothers who were ineligible for free NHS care.
“The true cost of ‘health tourism’ is estimated to be around £2 billion a year, therefore, providing that other hospitals enforce these new measures, that were introduced in October, the NHS can expect to save a lot of money. It is totally unacceptable that the British taxpayer has been picking up the bill for those seeking to take advantage of our National Health Service, especially when Maternity Services have been struggling to cope in many areas”.