Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Crackdown on foreign NHS treatment

Simon Burns says the Government will not tolerate abuse of the National Health Service

Ministers have warned they will not tolerate abuse of the NHS by foreign visitors after a woman reportedly flew from Nigeria so that she could have her baby in a British hospital.

The unnamed woman was alleged to have received treatment totalling £10,000 but returned home after having had her child without paying anything.

Health Minister Simon Burns said that the Government was looking to tighten the rules to prevent "inappropriate" access to free hospital treatment by foreign visitors.

The heavily pregnant woman was said to have travelled from Lagos to Manchester because she was concerned about the standard of treatment she would receive in her own country.

She was said to have gone straight from the airport to Wythenshawe Hospital where she told staff that there were complications with her pregnancy.

Two midwives, two consultant urologists, a radiology consultant, two consultant obstetricians and two anaesthetists were reported to have been involved in her treatment before her healthy baby was born by emergency Caesarean section last week.

Prior to her discharge from hospital on Monday, staff were said to have informed her that the cost of her treatment was around £10,000 and asked her for billing details. The woman was reported to have left without paying anything.

Mr Burns said: "We won't tolerate abuse of our national health service. The NHS has a duty to anyone whose life or long-term health is at immediate risk but it is not there to serve the health needs of the globe.

"There are comprehensive rules and procedures to charge visitors for hospital treatment but we know that the system needs to be improved. That is why we are currently reviewing those arrangements to prevent inappropriate free access to the NHS and provide a fairer more balanced system.

"Hospitals have a legal duty to recover any charges made to overseas patients. The Government has also recently amended the immigration rules so that anyone with an unpaid debt to the NHS of £1,000 or more can be refused a new visa."

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