Britain unveils plans to charge migrants for healthcare (Update)

July 3, 2013

Britain announced plans on Wednesday to charge migrants hundreds of pounds a year to access its state-run National Health Service (NHS), in a bid to clamp down on so-called health tourism.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also proposed to stop giving visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) free access to general practitioners (GPs).

"We have been clear that we are a national health service, not an international health service, and I am determined to wipe out abuse in the system," he said.

Ministers admitted however that they have no idea of the true cost and impact of migrants on the NHS, and have commissioned an independent audit to report back in September.

The proposals, which have been put out to consultation, are tied to a wider clampdown on immigration by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-led coalition government.

It also published plans on Wednesday to make landlords check the immigration status of tenants, with the goal of making it more difficult for illegal migrants to stay in Britain.

Under the healthcare changes, the government insisted no-one will be denied emergency care and said the treatment of infectious diseases and sexually transmitted infections would remain free.

However, health professionals warned the changes could still pose a public health risk by deterring ill patients from seeking treatment.

"People use the NHS if they've got infections and we certainly don't want to have people wandering around for fear of being charged at the GP surgery," Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, told BBC radio.

She added: "I don't think we should be turning the GP surgery into a border agency."

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) said the plans also threatened to undermine years of work to encourage marginalised at-risk groups to access HIV testing and treatment.

People visiting Britain for less than six months already have to pay for routine hospital care but the changes would mean they also have to pay to visit a GP.

Students and workers staying more than six months would be charged a set fee of at least £200 (235 euros, $300) a year to cover NHS costs when they apply for their visas. This is in addition to taxes used to fund the health service.

The government also wants to boost efforts by the NHS to recoup the cost of treating patients from EEA countries—the European Union plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

The health service currently writes off about £12 million a year that could be claimed back from EEA governments, the Department of Health said.

Countries such as Russia and Australia, which have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Britain, will not be affected by the changes.

Explore further: More accident and emergency visits where access to GPs is worse

Related Stories

More accident and emergency visits where access to GPs is worse

June 12, 2013
Patients with more timely access to GP appointments make fewer visits to accident and emergency departments, suggests a study published today.

Survival of England's national health service questioned

June 24, 2013
(HealthDay)—Recent criticism of England's National Health Service (NHS) has called its survival into question, according to a perspective piece published online June 19 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

British minister heckled over health reforms

February 20, 2012
(AP) -- Britain's health minister was angrily heckled Monday over health care reforms that the government says will improve efficiency but opponents claim threaten the foundation of the country's state-funded health care ...

UK government wants hospitals to expand overseas

August 21, 2012
(AP) — The British government said Tuesday that it wants the country's state-funded hospitals to help support themselves by setting up profit-making branches in other countries.

First evaluation of electronic prescription service

July 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- The first evaluation of a new system that can provide electronic transmission of prescritpions from GP practices to community pharmacies is published today in an interim report commissioned on behalf of ...

Care homes and NHS need to work together, research finds

January 15, 2013
Care homes and NHS healthcare services must work more closely together to improve levels of care for older people, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire.

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.