Upfront charges ‘will create chaos in NHS’
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.