Egyptian 'health tourist' agrees to pay £30,000

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A wealthy Egyptian businessman who made regular visits to Britain as a "health tourist" to obtain free care on the NHS has agreed to repay the £30,000 cost.

A wealthy Egyptian businessman who made regular visits to Britain as a "health tourist" to obtain free care on the NHS has agreed to repay the £30,000 cost.

In the first case of its kind, Albert Girgis offered the payment to settle a civil action brought by the NHS Counter Fraud Service, which won a court order freezing his worldwide assets last September. Mr Girgis, 71, made regular trips to London from his home in Cairo for at least a decade for a heart problem.

He was treated at three London teaching hospitals - the Chelsea and Westminster, the Royal Brompton and the Royal Marsden - and received several thousand pounds worth of prescription drugs.

He received treatment as a UK resident when, as an Egyptian national, he would have been expected to pay. Emergency care is free for all patients.

Counter-fraud officers found that Mr Girgis had been using the NHS for at least 12 years.

Lord Warner of Brockley, a health minister, said: "I am very pleased that the tough line that the NHS has taken on health tourism has resulted in a repayment of ... the full value of the NHS care obtained by Mr Girgis.

Health tourism is estimated to cost the NHS up to £200m a year. The Department of Health introduced restrictions last year to close loopholes which allowed overseas visitors to obtain expensive hospital treatment.

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