Health trust owed more than £300k by for­eign pa­tients

Hos­pi­tals to start up­front charges in April

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Fran­cis Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor pfran­cis@thek­m­group.co.uk @PaulOnPol­i­tics

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

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