Foreigners may have to pay for urgent and non-urgent treatment by the NHS
Foreigners may have to pay for urgent and non-urgent treatment by the NHS

Jeremy Hunt says non-EU foreign patients to be charged for using NHS services including GP and A&E care

'We want to make sure everyone makes a fair contribution to the services,' Jeremy Hunt says

Kate Ng
Sunday 06 December 2015 12:43
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Non-EU visitors and migrants to the UK will have to start paying for NHS services, including A&E care and ambulances, the Government has announced.

The changes would see patients from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) charged for urgent and non-urgent care, including rides in ambulances, X-rays, setting broken bones, blood tests, draining fluids and care received from paramedics.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposed move would save taxpayers £500m a year by 2018.

Mr Hunt said: “We want to make sure that everyone makes a fair contribution to services, by extending charges to make sure visitors pay for the care they receive.

“This government was the first to introduce tough measures to clamp down on migrants accessing the NHS and these changes will recover up to £500m per year to put back into frontline patient care.”

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary for the Royal College of GPs, said: "One of the founding principles of the NHS is that healthcare is free at the point of need and limiting access would fundamentally change that.

"General practice is already under immense resource and workforce pressures so it is imperative that GPs and our teams do not find ourselves acting as immigration control and being burdened with even more bureaucracy."

The Department of Health said the most vulnerable groups, including refugees and asylum seekers, would continue to be exempt from the proposed charges.

Jeremy Hunt disappointed

The changes would be an extension of new rules set in April, which mean non-EU visitors and migrants must pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of their visa application for non-urgent operations, in-patient treatment and follow-ups.

According to the Department of Health, the IHS has already produced £100m in savings.

A consultation on the plans will be launched on Monday. The Department of Health said no patient would be denied emergency care where immediately necessary, and GP and nurse consultations would remain free of charge.

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