Health trust owed more than £300k by foreign patients
Hospitals to start upfront charges in April
The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has revealed it is owed £326,381 for treatment given to overseas patients over the past two years.
The trust said it took steps to ensure bills for care and treatment were pursued and it often took longer for invoices sent to patients abroad to be paid.
The trust has been paid £476,608 for treatment received by overseas patients – £373,417 in 2015 and £103,191 in 2016 – and emphasised it did not write off any of the debts.
Providing midwifery services accounted for one of the largest sums for overseas patients – £43,858 in 2015-16 for services at Pembury Hospital, and £53,523 so far this year.
The trust said: “We always seek to recoup our costs, where it’s possible to do so. We have an overseas visitors manager who coordinates the assessment of overseas patients to determine their eligibility for NHS hospital treatment without charge, in accordance with legislation.”
“Overseas visitors requiring non-emergency treatment should be asked for identification and an NHS number when they first present to our hospitals to ensure they are legally eligible to receive free NHS care.
“If a patient who has received emergency treatment leaves the UK, they are added to a Home Office debtors list and cannot return to the UK until the debt is settled.”
Other Kent trusts face similar challenges over unpaid bills.
Treating overseas patients has cost Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust £275,762 over the past two years – nearly £160,000 was recouped, but £64,686 was written off after the trust failed to track down those who owed money.
The East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust said healthcare totalling £314,000 has been charged to foreign patients so far this financial year.
The trust has already recouped two-thirds of the money, making it one of the best performing trusts in the UK for settling bills.
Hospitals in England will have a legal obligation from April to ensure they charge for non-urgent treatment upfront. Patients could be refused operations unless they cover costs in advance.
The measures were brought in to help counter the growth of socalled ‘health tourism’.
Midwifery services account for one of the largest sums of money owed for treatment by overseas patients to the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
Pembury hospital is owed more than £50,000 for midwifery services