Private Business Intermediaries

Health Tourists leave UK tax payer to pick up the bill

02/10/2012 | By Peter Walker
There have been widely reported cases of individuals flying in to the UK after discovering a medical issue in their home country, only to go direct to A&E for treatment on landing in the UK. 

A well publicised case in August 2012 of a woman who discovering complications in pregnancy flew from Lagos to Manchester leaving Wythenshawe Hospital with an unpaid bill of over £10,000 following an emergency c section. 

NHS Hospitals do have departments dedicated to invoicing those not entitled to free NHS care, however once a person leaves the UK it is very difficult and expensive for funds to be recovered. 

With NHS finances under increasing strain, these costs are a concern. Even after a 'crackdown' by the Department of Health in 2011 , treatment that is considered immediately necessary is still provided free as are treatments for sexual and tropical diseases, acute psychiatric episodes. 

UK residents travelling in the EU can get emergency 'treatment at a similar cost to the local population' via the European Health Insurance Card or  E111 card  though in many EU countries there may well be a charge. The E111 can be obtained for no or a small charge direct from the NHS,  its important to note that companies can charge for the card which is free, watch out for many sites that charge for the card which is free direct or just £2 from the Post Office.  The EHIC does not cover getting you back to the UK or treatment in private hospitals, standards of free care in the public hospitals can be well below those of the NHS, hence the number of persons travelling to the UK for free treatment. It is highly advisable if your travelling outside of the UK, even if you have private medical insurance in the UK,  unless the policy is designed for cover travelling and working in the UK & abroad, to ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance in place before you travel. 

BBC's Panorama broadcast on Wednesday 3rd October 2012 investigates the scale of the health tourism problem to the NHS and looks for ways that the NHS can protect itself from this significant burden.