The Government has announced plans as part of a clampdown on the widespread abuse of the system by foreign nationals who come to the country for medical help they would have to pay for in their home countries.
Jeremy Hunt’s Health Department initiative is set to plug a £500million a year gap in the NHS’ annual funding.
Addressing the Commons in January, Mr Hunt told MPs £1.8billion was being spent on foreign visitors using the NHS each year.
And speaking on Sunday, he added: “We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS – as long as they make a fair contribution, just as the British taxpayer does.
Tory MP Nicholas Soames claims compulsory insurance for foreigners will solve health tourism issue
I think people on visitors visas should come with a health insurance certificate
“We aim to recover up to £500million a year by the middle of this Parliament, money that can be reinvested in patient care.”
Discussing the proposition on BBC Daily Politics, alongside Labour MP Kate Hoey, Mr Soames claimed an introduction of compulsory health insurance for foreign travellers entering the UK would put an end to health tourism.
The grandson of Sir Winston Churchill said: “Call me old-fashioned but I don’t think £1.8bn is small beer.
“This isn’t an old chestnut that’s just been wheeled out – it’s been going on for about 10 years.
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“Kate [Hoey] and I have both been involved – to a greater or lesser extent – on balanced migration. One of the issues we have looked at, is there a question of these people coming here and a large cost accumulating to the NHS.
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“I agree with the terms of the overall spend, it’s not great, but money that should be recouped.
“I think there’s simple way of dealing with it, I think people on visitors visas when they come to this country, they should come with a health insurance certificate.”
In response to the growing concern around health tourism, from April new laws will place a responsibility on hospitals to charge foreign patients before any care is given.
The Government’s health commissioners will be able to audit and then withhold payments from those trusts which do not comply with the new regulations.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s absolutely right that the Government is taking further steps to ensure that only those entitled to care free at the point of use on the NHS can receive it.
“It’s a national, not an international health service and if budgets are tight abuse needs to be stamped out.”
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A top boss at NHS Improvement backed Mr Hunt’s proposals, claiming they would allow the service to continue providing “world-class facilities”.
Dr Kathy McLean, executive medical director at the organisation, said: “This new approach will mean that more money is available to the NHS to care for patients and to continue to provide world-class facilities.
“However, this won’t change the fact that, in an emergency, everyone will still have access to the urgent care they need.
“We’re working with providers to help them improve how they manage cost recovery so we can make sure the NHS gets paid for the work it does.”
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