New healthcare charges for migrants under Tory plans

Overseas visitors and migrants will be charged for using most GP services, as well as A&E treatment and ambulance care under new plans drawn up by the Government.

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.
Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposed changes to be introduced in 2017 would recover up to £500 million per year to put back into frontline patient care.

A consultation will be launched tomorrow, led by the Government’s independent adviser on cost recovery Sir Keith Pearson to run until March 6 next year.

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Migrants and foreign visitors currently pay for some NHS services such as non-urgent operations, in-patient treatment, plus follow-up care received as an out-patient but under the proposed new plan charges will be extended to other areas.

Mr Hunt said: “We want to make sure that everyone makes a fair contribution to services, by extending charging to make sure visitors pay for the care they receive.”

GP and nurse consultations will remain free for overseas visitors to protect the wider public’s health, the Department of Health said, but overseas visitors will be charged for GP-led services such as x-rays, diagnostic tests, physiotherapy, blood tests, lung function tests, prescriptions, plus dental treatment and eye care costs.

Emergency care will still be provided under the proposals, without the need to seek prior payment, a European Health Insurance Card or proof of residency, but NHS healthcare will “remain chargeable”.

A&E care to be charged will include, filling wounds, draining fluids, x-rays, setting broken bones and intensive care in A&E before being admitted, while charges will be made for ambulance care received from paramedics and transport costs.

Vulnerable groups, such as refugees and asylum seekers, will continue to be exempt from charging, the Government said.

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne warned against burdening NHS staff with “even more work” and called for a proper consultation on the plans to be carried out in the first instance.

He said: “NHS staff should be confident that they are allowed to treat patients first in an emergency, rather than issuing them an invoice.

“Over the last five years the Government has repeatedly announced policies that might sound good on paper, but prove to be completely unworkable.”