NHS re­coups half the cost of treat­ing for­eign pa­tients

The Herald - - NEWS - HE­LEN MCAR­DLE

NHS Scot­land has re­couped less than half the costs spent treat­ing pa­tients from Europe and over­seas in the past five years.

Around £4 mil­lion out of £9m has been re­im­bursed.

Pa­pers sub­mit­ted to MSPS show that health boards in Scot­land spent £4m be­tween April 2013 and March 2017 treat­ing in­ter­na­tional pa­tients not from the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area (EEA), and there­fore not en­ti­tled to free health­care on the NHS. Of this, £2.75m has been re­cov­ered to date.

The fig­ures were out­lined by NHS Scot­land chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Gray in a let­ter to Holy­rood’s Health and Sport Com­mit­tee.

He added: “It should be noted that all NHS Boards have pro­ce­dures in place to pur­sue and re­cover treat­ment costs and that a num­ber of pa­tients will have been wait­ing for their in­sur­ance com­pany to set­tle or will have had re­pay­ment plans in place.”

Mr Gray said it was un­clear how many over­seas pa­tients had re­ceived treat­ment on NHS Scot­land dur­ing this time as these fig­ures were not col­lected cen­trally by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, but stressed that “any­one that re­quires NHS treat­ment while in Scot­land will re­ceive it, based on med­i­cal pri­or­ity”.

The doc­u­ments also de­tail spend­ing on treat­ment for non-uk cit­i­zens vis­it­ing from the EEA re­gion, who are en­ti­tled to free health­care un­der re­cip­ro­cal ar­range­ments cov­ered by the Euro­pean Health­care In­sur­ance Card (EHIC) scheme.

The is­sue has been thrust into the spot­light as Brexit raised ques­tions over how Brits’ med­i­cal care would be cov­ered on the Con­ti­nent in fu­ture.

Mr Gray states that 4,841 in­di­vid­u­als from non-uk EEA coun­tries have been treated on NHS Scot­land since 2014/15, at a cost of £5m. NHS Scot­land was re­im­bursed £1.25m in line with ar­range­ments drawn up by the Depart­ment of Health in 2014, which promised par­tic­i­pat­ing health boards and NHS trusts across the UK that they would be di­rectly re­paid 25% of the costs of treat­ing EEA pa­tients in ex­change for re­port­ing the data. With­out it, the UK Gov­ern­ment can­not ap­ply to other EEA coun­tries to be re­im­bursed.

Mr Gray said: “The 25% level was seen as af­ford­able and suf­fi­cient to mo­ti­vate a higher num­ber of boards and trusts to par­tic­i­pate.”

The re­main­der of the health­care costs re­paid to the UK Gov­ern­ment by other EEA coun­tries goes di­rect to the Trea­sury.

„ Fish farm­ing brings in in­come and sup­ports lo­cal jobs.

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