In an attempt to combat health tourism, providers of NHS treatment will now be required to make sure that patients in England are eligible for the free care they receive. Patients who are ineligible for free NHS care will now be expected to pay upfront.

The new measures will require medical staff to ask patients for proof of identification and of residence, such as utility bills, bank statements and proof of employment, as a means of proving whether they are eligible for state-funded healthcare. The crackdown on health tourism, which comes into effect today, will not affect those seeking urgent medical attention. A&E, general practice and infectious disease treatment will still remain free to all.

Dr Julia Reid MEP, UKIP’s health spokesperson said: “Although long overdue, I’m glad to see the Government are finally introducing yet another common-sense UKIP policy.”

“For far too long people unentitled to free health care have been taking advantage the NHS which provides medical treatment free at the point of delivery, leaving the British taxpayer to pick up the bill.

“The new measures coming into effect today means we’re now one step closer to putting the ‘national’ back into the National Health Service”, Dr Reid added.

Dr Meirion Thomas, a leading cancer specialist and former lead surgeon at London’s Royal Marsden hospital previously warned that the number of health tourists abusing the NHS was “grossly underrated”. He estimated the true cost of ineligible foreign patients using the NHS to be £2 billion a year, a figure that UKIP has consistently estimated as well.

Dr Julia Reid MEP, who has previously worked for the NHS as a research biochemist, said: “The new regulations coming into force today is an attempt to combat some of the £2 billion lost to health tourists every year. Although the new changes are guaranteed to reduce the burden that is ‘health tourism’, it won’t negate the whole problem altogether, as those who have life-threatening conditions will still be treated, and rightly so. We, therefore, recommend that the Government fully implement UKIP’s policy which states that; all migrants and visitors who come to Britain must have approved medical insurance. Only then can we fully crack down on the problem of health tourism.”