It has been revealed that NHS bosses are chasing what are described as “hit & run tourists” who were treated last year in UK hospitals for at least £15m. More than £2m has already be written off by hospital chiefs after being classed as unrecoverable. The £15m sum was calculated using data that was released by 102 of the 160 NHS trusts that are in existence. If these debts were replicated across every trust the amount outstanding from last year would total nearly £24m; almost £2m a month.
There is also almost £10m of unsettled bills already outstanding from 2011 but all these unpaid bills are actually thought to be a mere fraction of the full value of money still owed as the current checking system can only be described as lax.
Prof. J Meirion Thomas is an NHS cancer surgeon and a leading campaigner against the growing trend of health tourism. He said that most trust employ people whose job it is to check whether patients are entitled to receive free care but they are badly under resourced which means people are slipping through the net all the time, and the true cost could well into billions a year.
A Department of Health report released last months concluded that the NHS possessed “some of the most generous rules in the world”. The report discovered evidence that relatives of migrants were then coming over to UK and taking advantage of these trips to receive free treatment, and the majority were doing this undetected. The annual bill for this is believed to be between £1.9-£2bn.
A spokesperson from the Taxpayers Alliance, Matthew Sinclair, called this practice very unfair and deeply worrying, adding that anyone who genuinely needed emergency care from the NHS while in Britain should receive the treatment they need but UK taxpayers should be the underwriters of an international health service.