Whether patients are supposed to pay for treatment depends on whether they are resident in the UK and on the type of treatment. Some treatments, including GP appointments and accident and emergency care, are currently free to all patients and some patients, such as refugees and those applying for asylum, are exempt from charges. In other cases, statutory regulations require hospital trusts to make and recover charges in respect of the cost of treating overseas visitors. Most hospital care is chargeable.
Trusts should charge visitors from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland (EEA&S) directly, and report when they treat visitors from the EEA&S so that the UK can recoup charges from other member states, for example under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. Research for the Department for Health (the Department) in 2013 indicated that the NHS recovered less than a fifth of the amount it could have charged. In July 2014, the Department launched an overseas visitor and migrant cost recovery programme with the aim of increasing the amount recovered, from £73 million in 2012–13 to £500 million a year by 2017–18, by extending the scope of charging and implementing the existing regulations more effectively. New rules extended the charging regime in April 2015, so that students and temporary migrants from outside the EEA&S now have to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of their visa application.
30 January 2017