NHS hospitals were today told to be extra vigilant for potential health tourism in the run-up to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected to travel to the UK for Her Majesty’s funeral on Monday.
Official guidance circulated to hospitals states how all organisations ‘should have a method of identifying overseas visitors’.
This include foreign dignitaries and VIPs, the NHS England document adds.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected to travel to the UK for Her Majesty’s funeral on Monday. Official guidance circulated to hospitals states how all organisations ‘should have a method of identifying overseas visitors’. This include foreign dignitaries and VIPs, the NHS England document adds
All systems should ‘have plans to manage these patients, and ensure that those not entitled to free healthcare at the point of use are charged appropriately’.
Losing money to so-called health tourists, people who travel to the UK for NHS treatment, has long been a contentious issue for doctors and politicians.
Under current laws, overseas patients whose treatment is deemed routine — such as a hip or knee op — must pay up-front.
Urgent care, which includes pregnant women giving birth, is billed afterwards.
Many patients wrongly get free care because staff presume they are UK residents, or chose to turn a blind eye.
PATIENTS ‘MUST BE ABLE TO ACCESS CARE’ ON DAY OF THE QUEEN’S FUNERAL
Health leaders have been told they need to make sure patients can access care if GPs close on the day of the Queen’s funeral.
NHS England has written to local and regional leaders saying that, while GP services will be able to close on the bank holiday, there needs to be ‘sufficient’ out-of-hours care for patients.
It also asked for scheduled Covid booster care home visits to be carried out as planned and ‘strongly’ encouraged clinics due that day to stay open.
The letter also said areas must make up for cancelled appointments and make sure patients can pick up prescriptions in advance.
Health bosses will also need to work with dentists and community pharmacies to confirm available services on the bank holiday so patients can access urgent dental care and medicines, it added.
The rules are opposed by some doctors’ leaders, including the influential British Medical Association. Medics have described charging patients to pay as ‘racist’.
It means many patients have often left the country by the time they are asked to pay, costing the taxpayer tens of millions every year.
Only patients who are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, which usually means being here for six months, are entitled to free care.
Care in A&E units and GP surgeries are free for everyone.
In all other situations, staff are legally obliged to check eligibility by looking at their passports, utility bills and other documents.
Holders of a European Health Insurance Cards are entitled to some free NHS care.
Anyone who isn’t eligible for free care should be invoiced but actual fees depend on the procedure being offered. For instance, maternity tourists are each billed around £6,000, typically covering antenatal care and the delivery.
The letter, first seen by the Health Service Journal, was written by Sir David Sloman, NHS England’s chief operating officer.
It states: ‘We are writing to all organisations following confirmation of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the activation of arrangements relating to her lying in state and subsequent funeral.’
Later down, the planning document adds: ‘The organisation should have a method of identifying overseas visitors, including foreign dignitaries and VIPS, and has plans to manage these patients, and ensure that those not entitled to free health care at the point of use are charged appropriately.’
The letter also warns of a potential spike in demand over the weekend, especially in mental health settings.
It states: ‘Be aware that some patients may be destabilised by the death of Queen Elizabeth II and require additional support.’