NHS fails to recover tens of millions of pounds from health tourists despite crackdown.

THE NHS is failing to recover tens of millions of pounds despite a crackdown on health tourists.

Hospitals and other care providers issued £91million bills to patients from outside the 31 countries of European Economic Area last year.

 Hospitals and other care providers issued £91million bills to patients last year but received only £35million

Hospitals and other care providers issued £91million bills to patients last year but received only £35millionCredit: Getty Images - Getty

But they received only £35million — and wrote off £30million in unpaid fees, according to figures from watchdog NHS Improvement.

Andrew Percy, standing for re-election as a Tory MP, said: “We have a National Health Service, not an International Health Service. Every pound not recovered is a pound not spent on those who pay their taxes.”

Demands for payment rose by £4million from 2017/18 to 2018/19, analysis of NHS accounts by the Health Service Journal shows.

The amount received increased by £5million but write-offs were up £3million.

Freedom of Information responses from two thirds of trusts earlier this year revealed they were owed £149.5million — enough to pay for 6,000 nurses.

The British Medical Association has called payment demands “racist”.

Spokesman John Chisholm said: “The system is not working and, given the difficulties in recouping charges and assessing a patient’s ability to pay, it is not cost effective.”

Saffron Cordery, from NHS Providers, said improvements were being made.

But she added: “Recovering costs can be challenging. We need to bear in mind the pressures that make this a difficult task for frontline staff.”



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