Non-EU patients should pay for A&E and some GP services - govt

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The Department of Health is consulting on charging overseas visitors and migrants using the NHS in England to A&E visits and ambulance services as well as some GP examinations.

The DOH aims to recover up to £500m per year from charging overseas migrants and visitors by the middle of this Parliament (2017/18).

It said the recovery of up to £500m per year will contribute to the £22 billion savings required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the NHS and deliver the NHS' Five Year Forward View.

In 2013, the DOH launched a public consultation on the existing charging arrangements for overseas visitors and migrants for their use of the NHS.

In April 2015 new rules came in which introduced an ‘Immigration Health Surcharge' meaning visa applicants from outside Europe make a contribution to the costs of their healthcare while in the UK.

New exemptions were also introduced meaning that charges no longer applied to migrants who required physical or mental health treatments resulting from violence, torture or female genital mutilation.

The current rate of the surcharge for those migrants required to pay for NHS access is £200 per person, per year (£150 for students).

The government previously made a commitment that GP and nurse consultations will be available and free at the point of use to anyone that requires it on the grounds of public protection.

Now, the government is extending charging of overseas visitors and migrants who use the NHS.

The consultation seeks views on changes in primary care, secondary care, community healthcare and changing current residency requirements.

Despite retaining its commitment to free GP appointments, it is consulting on charging for some primary care services delivered in a GP practice or on behalf of a GP practice, such as taking blood, lung function tests, minor surgery and physiotherapy.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We want to make sure that everyone makes a fair contribution to services, by extending charges to make sure visitors pay for the care they receive.

"This government was the first to introduce tough measures to clamp down on migrants accessing the NHS and these changes will recover up to £500m per year to put back into frontline patient care."

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary for the Royal College of GPs, said: "One of the founding principles of the NHS is that healthcare is free at the point of need and limiting access would fundamentally change that. Doctors enter medicine to deliver care to patients - not to check that people are entitled to free care, before they receive treatment.

"General practice is already under immense resource and workforce pressures so it is imperative that GPs and our teams do not find ourselves acting as immigration control and being burdened with even more bureaucracy.

"While it is important that the NHS is not be abused and measures need to be taken to tackle health tourism, GPs have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare and cannot be expected to police the system or prevent people from getting medical help when they are at their most vulnerable.

"We are pleased that these plans will not extend to emergency care and routine GP appointments, but we are concerned that a system of charging for some services and not others will lead to confusion amongst patients and may deter them from seeking medical care when they are sick."

 

 

 

 

 

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