Non-EU nationals to be charged for NHS services

Jeremy Hunt - Web.2 Patients without EU nationality will be charged for NHS services, according to plans outlined by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The proposals include adding a £200 health levy to six-month visa costs and charging people who are in the UK for less than six months for GP visits.

The scheme also aims to step up the measures used to reclaim hospital treatment costs from EU patients via insurance.

The BMA and disease control specialists have expressed concern at the public health risks posed by denying free NHS care to many visitors and migrants.

According to Hunt, treating ‘foreigners’ costs the NHS £30m per year, which is a matter of “widespread public concern” (though the total is only 0.6% of the annual ‘Nicholson challenge’).

The National Aids Trust warned that the new measures would “undermine years of work to encourage marginalised at-risk groups to access HIV testing and treatment,” and so risk “accelerating the spread of HIV in the general population”.

Dr Laurence Buckman, Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, commented: “The BMA would strongly oppose any system where GPs are required to act as UK Border Force agents and enforce immigration checks.”

He called for an “impact assessment” to determine how much time and money the scheme would cost.

“We need to ensure that financial considerations are balanced with a doctor’s ethical obligation to meet the needs of patients, irrespective of their immigration status, and that safeguards exist to protect vulnerable individuals,” commented Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Director of BMA Professional Activities.

“Doctors also have an important obligation to protect public health. If parts of the population are not able to access healthcare, this could result in highly transmissible conditions, such as TB, going undetected and spreading more widely across the population.”