Jeremy Hunt: £500m a year ‘can be recouped from foreigners using the NHS’

 

Deputy Political Editor

At least £500m more can be recovered each year from foreign visitors who use British doctors and hospitals, the Health Secretary will claim today as the Government sets out plans to toughen border controls.

Jeremy Hunt will seize on a study putting the annual price tag from visitors and temporary migrants using the NHS at up to £2bn as evidence of the need to act against “health tourism”.

The Immigration Bill, which will be debated today in the Commons, set out moves to require temporary migrants to pay a surcharge before being given a visa.

The study for the Department of Health says £388m could be clawed back from overseas visitors who receive free treatment. It also estimates that so-called health tourists cost the country between £70m and £300m.

The Government claims its health surcharge will raise some £200m a year, while the deterrent effect on foreign nationals targeting the NHS for treatment and fresh moves to claim back the cost of care will bring the saving to more than £500m.

The study puts the total price tag from foreign visitors using the NHS at £1.9bn to £2bn. But this figure includes some cash that is already recouped as well as some care, such as treatment for infectious disease, that would be impossible to recover in full.

Temporary visitors and students currently receive free care in Britain. This will be scrapped by the Bill, which brings in a surcharge of about £200 for migrants applying for visas of between six and 12 months and about £150 for students.

Last night Labour claimed the Government’s claims on health tourism were “unravelling”. It pointed to the report’s admission that its estimates are “subject to varying degrees of uncertainty” and that the extent of health tourism is “impossible to estimate with confidence”.

Labour is tabling several amendments to the Bill, including a crackdown on recruitment agencies which only hire foreign workers and increased penalties for employers who do not pay the minimum wage.

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