Up­front charges ‘will cre­ate chaos in NHS’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Steve Bird

NEW laws to make hospi­tal staff rou­tinely ask pa­tients for util­ity bills, bank state­ments and proof of em­ploy­ment to iden­tify those who should pay for treat­ment have been crit­i­cised amid fears they could cause chaos in the NHS.

From to­mor­row, pa­tients from out­side Bri­tain will be made to pay “up­front” charges for treat­ment in an at­tempt to com­bat the £2bil­lion lost to “health tourists” ev­ery year.

But the Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (BMA) warned that the scheme lacked clar­ity and could even cost the NHS money. Guid­ance seen by The Sun­day Tele­graph reveals that NHS trusts have been in­structed to ask pa- tients for de­tailed ev­i­dence that they live in Bri­tain. The guid­ance means any­one seek­ing non-ur­gent care will have to prove they are “set­tled” liv­ing in the UK to be el­i­gi­ble for free treat­ment.

The Depart­ment of Health form lists 32 ques­tions which could be asked. Fol­low­ing a back­lash, ac­cess to GPs will re­main free for all.

Pro­fes­sor He­len StokesLam­pard, chair­man of the Royal Col­lege of GPs, said: “It should not be the role of doc­tors and other health pro­fes­sion­als to po­lice this.”

Lord O’Shaugh­nessy, the Health Min­is­ter, said there was no prob­lem with over­seas vis­i­tors us­ing the NHS “as long as they make a fair fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion”. He added that some vul­ner­a­ble groups would be ex­empt.

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