King’s College Hospital Trust has revealed it is owed nearly £18million from foreign patients they have treated over the last five years – the highest amount known in the UK.
Although no one from overseas is ever refused emergency treatment, their costs are not covered by the NHS and hospitals have to be chase patients up retrospectively.
For the five years from 2010 to 2015, King’s racked up a debt of £17.9million in unpaid treatment for foreign patients, despite having a dedicated team for chasing up unpaid treatments.
Nearly 100 trusts provided data under a Freedom of Information Act, revealing a total unpaid national debt from foreign patients of more than £62.8m for the same period.
One patient at King’s College Hospital ran up a bill of £207,482 for renal therapy between 2010 and 2013 but the biggest unpaid bill in the figures provided was £428,103 for the treatment of a haemophiliac patient between 2011 and 2014 at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. The same trust also provided chemotherapy costing £126,053 in 2013 and 2014 for a foreign patient who has not paid the bill.
A spokesperson for King’s said the Trust had achieved annual increases in the monies they had clawed back from foreign patients but admitted there was still more to do.
“We will never refuse life-saving treatment to ANY patient who needs it. As a London hospital which provides a range of specialist services, it is inevitable that we will often treat a high number of overseas patients presenting with life-threatening conditions. Some of these patients require intensive, long-term care, which can be expensive. The process of checking for eligibility only begins at an appropriate time, and when the patient’s condition has sufficiently improved,” he said.
The UKIP candidate for Camberwell and Peckham, David Kurton, has called for all foreign nationals to have “approved private health insurance as a condition of entry” to tackle the problem. “In this time of austerity it is beyond belief that so much of the NHS’s precious resources are being squandered,” he said.