Hospitals will be legally obliged to charge migrants and other foreign patients before they are treated in an attempt to curb health tourism in the NHS. The Department of Health will announce regulations today under which patients will be refused treatment if they fail to provide proof of eligibility. Staff could be issued with card readers to take payments at hospital bedsides. The measures, which come into force in April, will apply to all non-urgent care. Emergency treatment will continue to be provided irrespective of the patient’s citizenship. Critics said, however, that the “disproportionate” plans would add to the administrative burden on the NHS, and may even cause problems for Britons who were unable to show a passport or utility bill.
NHS trusts may be forced to make overseas patients pay upfront for non-urgent care under a new proposal announced by Jeremy Hunt. The Health Secretary is due to announce the move which will require healthcare professionals to establish whether people flying to the UK for non-urgent treatment such as a hip operation or cataract removal are eligible for help and make sure they are able to pay before their treatment begins. The new rules mean patients must be told upfront they have to pay but can decide not to have the procedure if they cannot pay. The measurement is the latest proposal destined to cut down on so-called “health tourism”. Many politicians and newspaper headlines emphasis the rough estimate of between £100 to £300m spent every year on people coming to the UK specifically to seek treatment on the NHS – but this accounts for just 0.3 per cent of the total NHS budget.
Overseas patients needing non-urgent treatment at hospital will be made to pay first under a major crackdown on health tourism. From April hospitals will be legally obliged to charge patients upfront for procedures which are not deemed immediately necessary. This includes hip or knee surgery, cataract removals and operations to remove hernias as well as certain scans and medications. If patients are unable to pay, doctors will be told to make a decision, based on their clinical need, as to whether the treatment should go ahead anyway. But many may be instructed to return to their home countries and have the procedure there. The rules will not apply to maternity care or any treatment considered potentially life-saving or immediately necessary. This includes scans or treatment for cancer or heart conditions as well as operations to remove the appendix.
Patients will have to provide proof of identity before getting hospital treatment under a major crackdown on health tourism. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is bringing in new laws requiring medics to check eligibility for NHS access. Hospitals will also charge upfront for non-emergency care if a patient is not a UK resident or from an EU country. The move comes after a report by the Public Accounts Committee found that the NHS is spending £2billion a year treating overseas patients – and last year recouped just £289million against a target of £500million. Mr Hunt said: “We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS as long as they make a fair contribution, just as the British taxpayer does.
NHS hospitals in England will have a legal duty to charge overseas patients upfront for non-urgent care if they are not eligible for free treatment. From April this year, foreign patients could be refused operations unless they cover their costs in advance. NHS Improvement, which oversees the trusts, said hospitals would no longer have to chase money they are owed. Emergency treatment will continue to be provided and invoiced later. The announcement from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt comes amid recent headlines about the cost of tourists using the NHS. A BBC documentary, Hospital, showed a number of foreign patients unable to pay their bills. Hospitals are already supposed to charge patients living outside the European Economic Area for care such as hip operations or cataract removal, but this can be done by invoice, rather than upfront.
A CRACKDOWN on health tourists milking the NHS for free treatment is set to save £500million a year. From April new laws will place a responsibility on hospitals to charge foreign patients before any care is given. The move aims to cut 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. It will be left to hospital managers to determine the best way of proving eligibility but this is likely to include asking to see identity documents. The Government’s health commissioners will be able to audit and then withhold payments from those health 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.” People wanting treatment such as a hip operation or cataract removal could be turned away unless they agree to pay the NHS bill.
Patients from abroad are to be charged upfront for any non-urgent treatment on the NHS. The new rules will apply from April this year and all hospitals will be told to check if patients are eligible for free NHS treatment before they receive any treatment. They will then be required to share that information across the NHS. The upfront charges have been introduced because some patients cannot pay once treatment has been carried out. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We have no problem with overseas visitors using our NHS as long as they make a fair contribution, just as the British taxpayer does. “So today we are announcing plans to change the law which means those who aren’t eligible for free care will be asked to pay upfront for non-urgent treatment. “We aim to recover up to £500m a year by the middle of this Parliament – money that can then be reinvested in patient care.”
One in six Accident & Emergency departments are under threat of closure despite record overcrowding, in the worst ever crisis facing the NHS, new plans reveal. A total of 33 casualty units could face closure or being replaced with minor injuries units, according to documents drawn up across the country. The plans are part of efforts to close a £22bn hole in the health service budget by 2021. Health officials insist the changes will come alongside efforts to modernise services, and bring more care closer to home. In seven cases, proposals have been drawn up, and in some cases issued for local consultation. But 26 more hospitals are now considering plans to close or downgrade services, according to research by Health Service Journal, with some areas battling over which A&E to save.
Health bosses are planning to close or downgrade 24 A&E units as part of a huge NHS shake-up, experts warned last night. The controversial plans, set to be enacted within four years, have been confirmed at seven English hospitals – and another 17 are in the balance. A&E units are set to close in east London, West Bromwich and Birmingham – and comprehensive emergency departments elsewhere will be replaced with ‘urgent care centres’. Health bosses are planning to close or downgrade 24 A&E units as part of a huge NHS shake-up. The plans are part of a scheme to streamline the NHS in a bid to improve efficiency and save millions of pounds.
Theresa May is facing a Tory revolt this week aimed at stopping a ‘disastrous’ hard Brexit. More than two dozen pro-Remain Conservative MPs could back a Labour move to give MPs the power to block Mrs May from walking away without a deal. They believe that a “cliff edge” Brexit outcome would have “potentially disastrous economic consequences” for the country. The Prime Minister has threatened to leave the negotiations with the 27 other EU leaders if she cannot get an agreement in the UK’s favour, saying “no deal is better than a bad deal.” The Tory rebels could side with Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs by backing an amendment to the Article 50 Bill which would give Parliament the right to tell the Prime Minister to “step back from the brink” and get a better deal.
The shadow foreign secretary has suggested Labour will continue to support legislation paving the way for Brexit as it passes through Parliament. Emily Thornberry said Labour would not “frustrate Brexit” even if it failed to amend the bill. Ten shadow ministers were among 47 Labour MPs who rejected party orders to back it last week. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said frontbenchers would have to quit if they defied the whip at the next vote. The draft legislation comes back to the Commons on Monday for three days of debate culminating in a vote on its third reading. Speaking on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Ms Thornberry rejected a suggestion the party was “hopelessly divided” on the issue.
In news that has sent shockwaves through the pro-EU Dutch political establishment, that have been reports of British diplomats discussing the possibility of Nexit – the Netherlands leaving the European Union – as the next likely blow to the EU. Dutch Labour MP Michiel Servaes has even gone as far as accusing the noises of having come from inside the British government. It is hardly surprising with elections all over Europe this year that sensible people are looking ahead to the potential electoral fallout, with Geert Wilders’ anti-EU party first in the polls along with Marine Le Pen in France. Whilst those who support the EU project may wish for Brexit to have been a one-off, opposition towards leaving the EU entirely is growing right across Europe. Where Britain leads, others are likely to follow. Whether the establishment like it or not.
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall believes victory is within his grasp in the Stoke-on-Trent by-election as predecessor Nigel Farage joins him for a rally in the city tonight. His party has reported “record numbers of pledges of support” in the push to win the Labour stronghold of Stoke Central. It comes amid reports that a bid by Labour to get a deal with the Lib Dems and Greens to save the parliamentary seat seem to have failed. The by-election, to be held on February 23, was called after Labour moderate Tristram Hunt left to become director of the V&A Museum. Stoke-on-Trent has been dubbed “the capital of Brexit” after almost 70 per cent of voters backed Leave in the historic referendum. But Labour has picked Remainer Gareth Snell as its candidate. Mr Nuttall has said he is “quietly confident” about the result. He will be joined tonight by Mr Farage to help secure the seat. Mr Nuttall believes that a victory will “open the floodgates”, with Labour seats falling to Ukip as voters abandon the hard-Left politics of embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Theresa May has been given a major boost after a key ally of Angela Merkel warned that the EU must be ‘reasonable’ and not seek to ‘punish’ the UK for Brexit. Veteran German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble said cutting the City of London adrift would be counterproductive because it had capacity that did not exist in the rest of the continent. He insisted the aim of the looming divorce negotiations should be to ‘keep Britain close to us’. The positive comments will be a huge relief to the City, which has been raising concern about the possible impact if they do not retain strong access to the European single market. Under current ‘passporting’ rules, financial services firms based in the UK can do business across the EU with the minimum of red tape. But there is considerable uncertainty about how the arrangements will change after we leave the bloc – drawing warnings from some banks that they may have to move jobs.
Theresa May is unlikely to concede to any demand to change the terms of parliament’s vote on the final Brexit deal despite facing a possible Conservative revolt over the issue. A government source told the Guardian that calls for British MPs to be given a vote on the deal before it goes to the European parliament, and to be handed a say if no agreement is hammered out, were not practical. The prime minister was keen to accommodate Tory demands but suggested that this move would “hamstring” the government in negotiations with the EU27, the source said. They also argued it could plunge the government into “perpetual Brexit purgatory” if deals were repeatedly rejected.
MINISTERS are holding secret talks with anti-EU Labour MPs in a bid to defeat Tory rebellions on Brexit this week. It emerged last night that government whips have approached several Labour members who campaigned for Britain’s EU departure. No10 wants their help to see off any bid by Remainer Conservatives to enforce conditions on Theresa May’s Article 50 negotiations. There will be a series of crunch votes leading up to Wednesday as the bill to allow the PM to begin Brexit talks goes through its final Commons hurdle. A bid to force Mrs May to ask for MPs’ approval before she walks away from a bad EU deal is shaping up to be the tightest fight. But despite a wafer thin majority of just 16, Downing Street is confident it can defeat the move with the backing of a handful of pro-Brexit Labour MPs and Ulster’s 10 unionist MPs.
Action to help more people move from large, under-occupied homes as their children move out will be set out in the government’s house-building blueprint tomorrow. Gavin Barwell, housing minister, confirmed yesterday that the white paper “will have something to say” on aiding people who want to leave big houses. The document, which will be the biggest shake-up of housing policy in two generations, is expected to include measures to create more sheltered accommodation, as delivering more purpose-built rental homes for the over-55s is an important element of the government’s housing strategy. Provision of more flats and bungalows could dovetail with local authority incentives. Redbridge in northeast London has run trials helping pensioners with moving, renovation and financial advice.
A Government white paper has proposed incentivising the building of more sheltered accommodation to encourage the elderly to free up larger family homes. The policy, which is part of a wider raft of measures designed to help renters and people trying to get onto the housing ladder, is designed to encourage councils, housing associations and smaller developers to build sheltered housing to break the dominance of a limited number of larger housebuilders. It coincides with a major shift in housing policy designed to increase the supply of land, including freeing up the use of brownfield sites, in order to provide more affordable rental homes. Housing minister Gavin Barwell said the plans were intended to encourage all forms of house building, including social housing, and acknowledged it was a “change of tone” from previous Conservative Party policy which focused on home ownership.