Letter from the Parliamentary Clerk, Department
of Health, to the Clerk of the Committee (HAIC)
RE: INQUIRY INTO
Thank you for your letter of 14 January 2005,
seeking further information for the Health Committee's inquiry.
In respect of the information from the review
of GUM services, this is still very much a work in progress. The
Department has not yet had the opportunity to consider the data
which has been provided so far which is only part of an in-depth
two year review of services across the country. Ministers will
receive reports in due course. Under the circumstances, therefore,
you will understand that it is not appropriate to make information
available at this time.
The Committee also asked about analyses of costs
or potential savings arising from the changes to the charging
regimes for overseas visitors, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS
services. As regards the hospital charging regime, NHS trusts
have never been required to submit statistics on the costs of
treating overseas visitors (a proportion of whom will, at any
rate, be entitled to receive hospital treatment at no charge),
so there is no baseline from which an estimate of savings could
start. Moreover, it is worth making the point that the underlying
rationale behind the changes introduced last year to the hospital
charging regime was not only to save the NHS money by charging
overseas visitors who are not eligible for free treatment, but
also to protect free access to the NHS for all those who are entitled
to it. This has positive benefits in much more than just monetary
For primary medical services, on 14 May John
Hutton launched a public consultation on proposals to exclude
overseas visitors from eligibility to free NHS primary medical
services. The consultation ended on 13 August.
We are currently working through some of the
complex issues that the proposals have raised. Equally, Ministers
are considering the responses to the consultation with a view
to deciding the best way forward.
Costs and savings related to the treatment of
overseas visitors will vary depending on which of the options
Ministers decide to adopt but these are not the main drivers for
the proposed changes.
The main thrust of the proposals is to strengthen
the current system so that general practice staff and overseas
visitors are in no doubt about who is eligible to receive free
NHS primary medical services. The intention is for any new rules
to be fair, transparent and less bureaucratic to operate and which
can be enforced sensibly.
In the interests of public health, the consultation
proposed to adopt the same list of exempt diseases that apply
in secondary care for which no charges can be made. In addition,
the consultation also sought views on any primary medical services
that consultees considered should continue to be freely available
on public health grounds. Ministers are considering these as part
of the overall response to the consultation. The proposals also
made clear that anyone who required treatment as a result of an
emergency or that in the clinical opinion of the health care professional
was immediately necessary that this would continue to be provided
free of charge.
As you will appreciate, we are not yet in a
position to share any further details with the Committee at this