Sunday, December 16, 2018

Not a free NHS for many

Ministers are keeping secret a review that appears to expose how overseas patients are being wrongly denied NHS treatment after being told to pay upfront charges. Care has not been “safely withheld” when payment is not provided in some cases, after the controversial rules were introduced last year. Thousands of people have been told to pay upfront for their treatment since the crackdown began in October last year, including hundreds for serious health problems such as cancer and heart conditions. Under the rules, patients from outside the EU are charged 50 per cent more than cost to the NHS, which means up to £15,000 for certain operations.

Professor Martin Marshall, the Royal College of General Practitioners’ vice chair, said: “We are concerned about the risk of ill patients not seeking medical care because they cannot afford treatment – something that has the potential to affect some of the most vulnerable in society.

Hospitals were ordered to demand utility bills, bank statements or payslips from patients, in order to prove their entitlement to free healthcare. Staff were given a list of 32 questions to establish likely residency, alongside guidance warning trusts could fall foul of discrimination law if they target non-white patients.

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