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Health tourists are costing Britain £10million as foreign mums rip off the NHS to get free treatment

Posted on 2/01/2018 by

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Record numbers of benefit tourists are coming to the UK to have their babies delivered for free in NHS hospitals, leaving behind an unpaid bill totalling £10million.

RECORD numbers of health tourists are flying into Britain to have their babies delivered for free on the NHS, a Sun investigation has found.

At least 2,631 ineligible women gave birth on English maternity wards last year then failed to pay, leaving a bill of £10million.

Cases are up more than a fifth in the past 12 months, from 2,167.

Only 84 trusts that provide maternity services responded to our Freedom of Information request — around two in three. It means the real figure may be closer to 4,500 and NHS losses £16million.

Rules came into force in October requiring hospitals to charge overseas visitors upfront for non-urgent care. Staff must routinely ask patients where they have lived the past six months to identify who is entitled to free NHS treatment.

Ministers claim stricter checks are helping to detect more ineligible patients.

Who pays what

THE NHS is free for permanent UK residents. Current rules say EU countries should be billed for treatment their citizens receive when visiting Britain.

Non-EU nationals must pay or have health insurance. Non-eligible patients must be charged upfront for NHS hospital care unless their case is life-threatening.

GP care remains free for all as does emergency treatment, including maternity and A&E care.

Overseas visitors and students staying for over six months pay up to £200 a year to get free NHS care.

Health Minister James O’Shaughnessy told The Sun: “The NHS is a national, not an international, health service. Hospitals must make sure they charge people if they aren’t eligible for free care. They are getting better at identifying those people.” Ineligible patients cost the health service up to £2billion a year, according to Government estimates. The NHS has quadrupled the cash it has recovered from health tourists since 2012/13, from £89million to £358million last year.

Our investigation found the biggest single unpaid maternity bill in 2016/17 was at the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust, where a mum from Pakistan owes £46,000. In total, managers are trying to find 329 women for care costs totalling £317,000.

The biggest NHS trust, Barts in London, is seeking 438 mothers for unpaid maternity care totalling £1.75million. Trusts admitted most would be written off.

Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: “These figures prove the NHS is clearly seen as a soft touch.”

Source: TheSun