The cost of people who come to England for the sole purpose of receiving free health care is costing the NHS anything between £70 million to £300 million per year. New rules have been passed as of April 2015, and by 2017 the NHS hopes to save £500 million per year.
If there is any uncertainty on a patients entitlement to free care, they may be asked to fill in forms, attend an interview and provide any documentation that verifies their right to free health care (a passport, driving licence, bank statement et) before the treatment is provided.
These interviews will be in depth but will be handled delicately by staff who have had training on how to appropriately conduct the interview. Staff will not be allowed to give out the forms based on skin colour or the patients ability to speak English.
The Executive Director of the health charity Doctors of the World UK, Leigh Daynes, has voiced his concerns over the rules. “There should be no impediment on receiving immediately necessary medical care,” however GP surgeries and urgent treatment at A&E departments will remain free and nobody will be denied treatment that is needed immediately.
The new rules are mainly for covering common procedures where people are admitted as in patients rather than being rushed into hospital, for example joint replacement operations (an NHS hip replacement currently costs £7,826). If a woman is about to give birth she will receive NHS care but she may be asked for documents or payment once the baby has been delivered (a normal birth currently costs £2,188).
There will be a “health surcharge” on visa applications for non-EU citizens, with an annual fee of £200-a-year, which is reduced to £150 for students (Australian and New Zealand nationals will be exempt from the surcharge).
Non-EU citizens who are lawfully entitled to live in the UK and usually live in the country will be entitled to free NHS care as they are now.