UK gets tough on ‘health tourism’

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Tough rules to combat health tourism in the UK have seen the number of foreign women giving birth on the National Health Service (NHS) plummet by 90% in one hospital, says a Daily Express report. Since February all women at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, have been required to produce proof of identity confirming that they have lived at a UK address for at least a year to qualify for free care.

According to an internal report from the hospital’s trust, within a short time of the rules being announced managers needed to charge only 18 patients.

The programme, which was trialled in 17 other NHS trusts, may now be rolled out across dozens of other hospitals, the report says.

The St George’s trust estimated it was losing £4.6m a year to health tourism – the majority in maternity services. Figures for 2015-16 show that around 900 women who gave birth should have been charged but that most had not paid up, with £1.75m still being owed.

A UK Health Department spokesperson said: “We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS as long as they make a fair financial contribution.

“By improving how the NHS identifies and charges those not eligible for free healthcare, the government aims to recover money that can then be reinvested in patient care.”

Daily Express report

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