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£7m Owed to NHS by Health Tourists

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The NHS is owed millions of pounds from overseas patients who leave the country before paying up for treatments.

It is suspected that thousands of people flock to Britain every year with the intention of receiving hundreds of pounds worth of NHS treatments, and then leaving without paying.

From 2009-2010 alone, the NHS saw a deficit of £7m, the sole cause being foreigners fleeing the country before paying. In a time when the NHS is already strapped for cash, £7m could have paid for over 300 nurses for a year.

Generally, someone who resides outside of Britain is not automatically entitled to treatment on the NHS, however some treatments are covered. Some of these include treatments for accidents and emergencies, tuberculosis, cholera and malaria.

Further referrals, however, such as an outpatient referral, which may result from these treatments, should incur costs.

Throughout trusts, the hospitals with the biggest deficits include Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospital Trust, totaling an overall debt of over £950,000.

3 years ago, the Department of Health itself ran investigations into so called ‘health tourism’ and found that the annual cost to British taxpayers was a staggering £62m.

Commenting on these shocking numbers, the Department of Heath stated, “Anyone with an unpaid debt to the NHS will be refused a new visa until the debt is paid.”

Priti Patel, Conservative MP decalred, “It is unacceptable that foreign patient have misused our NHS this way.”

West Middlesex hospital was the first in 2009 to tell overseas visitors that they must pay up before treatment or be turned away.

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