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We have to stop drain on the NHS
8:28am Thursday 2nd August 2012 in Our View
For most of us, travelling abroad, whether on holiday or business, without some form of travel health insurance is unthinkable.
So how is it that so many foreign nationals are treated in our hospitals at our expense?
We reveal today that Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is owed almost £600,000 for treatment given to foreign nationals, money that is now unlikely to be recovered.
Nationally, it is estimated that the NHS has outstanding bills of £40m for such treatment and wrote off bills for £14m last year.
This is a staggering amount, particularly in these times of financial hardship, and undoubtedly impacts upon services.
That money could fund 14 nurses or up to 80 heart by-pass operations.
That may appear an overly simplistic equation, but the bottom line is that these debts mean less money spent elsewhere in the NHS The question of what can be done is a very difficult one.
The Department of Health policy on overseas visitors is that we have an obligation to treat foreign nationals who need urgent treatment – and that is a fundamentally important principle that should be maintained.
Instead, we need to look closer at recovery of the outstanding money, and Bradford West MP George Galloway ’s suggestion that we bill embassies for treating their nationals must be worth consideration.
It may not be the most palatable idea from a diplomatic point of view, but if it means vital funding can go elsewhere, than that is a price worth paying.
It may ultimately prove not to be a workable solution, but we clearly have to do something to stop this additional drain on our National Health Service.