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Sunday 16th June 2019

NHS owed £60m by overseas patients

26th September 2011

The Daily Telegraph has reported that people who don't live in the UK owe the health service nearly £60 million in medical bills.

Pound Sign

The paper said data released under the Freedom of Information Act showed an upsurge in patients leaving the country without settling their bills.

The data, which covers the last six years, showed foreign governments had accrued debts of almost £6 million at two London hospitals alone.

Imperial College trust, which is in the red for £100 million at present, is owed £2 million and has "written off" another £2 million. 

Over £4 million was owed to Great Ormond Street children's hospital by Middle Eastern governments.

In one instance a patient had 18 unpaid bills for treatment carried out over three years.

The NHS charges overseas patients for the full cost of their treatment unless special conditions apply.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "At a time when the NHS needs to make £20 billion of savings by 2014, why are managers at hospitals not desperately chasing these unpaid bills? Why are we writing off this money and throwing it down the drain when it could be used to fund front line services and help patients?"

Simon Burns, a health minister, said: "Hospitals must take every reasonable measure to recover any debts from overseas patients. The NHS has a duty to anyone whose life or long-term health is at immediate risk, but we cannot afford to become an international health service, providing free treatment for all." 


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Andrea Ttofa

Tuesday 27th September 2011 @ 9:56

As Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals, some foreign Governments arrange and pay for children from their own country to receive treatment from us when it is not available in their own country.

We were disappointed that the article in the Telegraph implied that we are not actively chasing the money owed to us by foreign governments, and that we have written off foreign government debt rather than chase outstanding payments.

We write off less than 1% of our income from international and private patients. And, it is extremely rare for us to write off any monies owed by foreign governments.

Our experience with foreign governments is that they are reliable payers, meeting their bills in full. The majority of the money currently owed to us falls within agreed payment terms.

Fiona Dalton

David Cripps

Wednesday 28th September 2011 @ 13:40

This is realy nothing new. For me, working in north Wales in the 1990's it was pregnant women coming on the ferry from Ireland. Later in the decade in Cambridgeshire it was non Service US citizens. In General Practice I long ago stopped doing any work without payment up front, whether this was for people travelling from countries with whom we have no reciprocal agreement, NHS patients wanting non GMS services, insurance companies or solicitors. Invoices would go unpaid, cheques not forthcoming or of the rubber variety. Most cannot be found after failing to pay. I see no reason why UK hospitals cannot take credit card details before letting people past the front desk. There is no need to be worried about litigation, after all, emergency treatment is free to all.

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