Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust has confirmed it will take part in an NHS pilot scheme designed to tackle financial losses incurred through ‘health tourism’, writes Kirsty Purnell…
It is one of a cohort of Trusts working with the Department of Health (DoH) to crack down on unpaid bills. It is thought that 20 Trusts across the UK will sign up but the rest are as yet unconfirmed.
Data obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act showed that patients not entitled to free treatment on the health service owed £29, 530, 378 in 2015/16.
The DoH will be “providing guidance” on cost recovery to individual Trusts, with one option being to make patients show their ID documents before they receive treatment. However, a DoH spokesperson confirmed that treatment would “never be denied or delayed” and indicated that in a life-threatening or emergency situation, a person would not be refused care.
The scheme will be rolled out across individual Trusts in “due course.”
A Guy’s and St Thomas’s spokesperson highlighted that ID checks are already operational in some areas across the Trust, including A&E and maternity.
The spokesperson said: “We take the recovery of money owed by patients who are not entitled to free NHS care very seriously, and work hard to recover any money owed. We have a dedicated team to identify patients who are ineligible for free NHS care and actively pursue costs during a patient’s stay. Where this is unsuccessful, we employ a UK or international debt recovery agency and may take court action.
“We already ask all maternity patients to bring in proof of identification to their 12 week scan appointment and carry out eligibility checks on patients in Accident & Emergency, asking them about their resident and visa status. Any patients who do not have a GP or an NHS number are referred to our Overseas Visitors team.”
King’s College Hospital has been reported to be part of the pilot, although spokespeople were unable to comment as we approached them on deadline.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Hospitals have a duty to make sure people pay up if they don’t have a right to free healthcare. Some Trusts are doing great work — trebling the income collected in three years to £289 million – but as the first Government to address this we are clear others must up their game. We are working with a number of Trusts including St George’s to provide intensive support and share learning to ensure we can protect the NHS from anyone who tries to abuse the system.”