Overseas patients face A&E charges in health tourism crackdown plan


Charges for emergency healthcare will be imposed on patients from overseas under plans being launched by Jeremy Hunt next month.

The Health Secretary wants to extend fees for planned hospital care to people from outside the European Union who turn up at accident and emergency departments.

Officials stressed that no-one who needs urgent care will be turned away, with systems put in place to recoup the costs, and the most vulnerable groups will be given protections.

But patients needing other casualty department services face being forced to pay upfront before they are treated.

The crackdown on so-called health tourism is expected to claw back around £500 million, according to the Times.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "International visitors are welcome to use the NHS, provided they pay for it - just as families living in the UK do through their taxes.

"This Government was the first to introduce tough measures to clamp down on migrants accessing NHS care and have always been clear we want to look at extending charges for non-EEA migrants.

"No-one will be denied urgent treatment and vulnerable groups will continue to be exempt from charging."

The plans are expected to go out to consultation in the next few weeks.

Exemptions will be put in place for refugees and asylum seekers, and pregnant women will not be turned away from maternity units if they have not paid upfront under the proposals.

A basic assessment with an A&E doctor costs the NHS at least £56 while the bill rises to £316 for more extensive care, according to the Times.