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Migrants May Have To Show Two Forms of ID To Receive NHS Healthcare

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A senior civil servant in the Department of Health has said patients may have to produce two forms of ID to receive some NHS care, following revelations that the NHS has “a lot further to go” to reclaim much of the money owed for treating overseas visitors.

NHS Trusts in England are legally obliged to check whether patients are eligible for free non-emergency NHS treatment and to recover any costs from overseas patients.

Recovering costs – the facts

The government estimates that it spends £2 billion per year on treating foreign visitors, a figure which includes the cost of cost of GP care, emergency treatment and routine hospital services, such as scans, maternity care and non-emergency operations.

Only £250 million is generated from so-called ‘health-tourism’.

The government has focused on recouping money on routine hospital care. It set a target of recovering £500 million a year by 2017-18, but the NHS is struggling to meet this objective.

In 2014-15, the year the target was set, the NHS recovered just £97 million.

A year later that had increased to £289m, but most of that - £164 million - came from the introduction of health surcharge on visa applications of £150 for students and £200 for other people. This entitles them to free NHS care.

Who pays?

Currently, the governments of EEA countries should foot the bill for treatment received by their citizens and non-EEA residents are expected to pay for treatment personally if they have not paid a surcharge.

St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, is currently running a pilot scheme to test new proof-of-ID processes to recoup costs from pregnant overseas patients, a move that has attracted much criticism.

Cathy Warwick of the Royal College of Midwives told the BBC, "I would ask the trust to clarify their policy and to give assurances that all pregnant women who need care will receive it, no matter what their Immigration status.

"To be clear, the law says, and government policy states, that trusts must offer care to women in labour, irrespective of their Immigration status in the country."

She said the move could be dangerous because "it could deter women from seeking care in a timely fashion. This could potentially have a serious impact on the health of the mother and their baby and the outcome of the pregnancy."

Some British-born citizens have no form of photo-ID

Meg Hillier, Chairwoman of the Commons Committee, has questioned the idea of asking for two forms of ID because she believes some of her constituents have no photo ID.

She said: "Because they have never travelled, they have no passport; they have no driver's licence because they have never driven, they still live at home because they can't afford to move out so they've never had a utility bill in their name.

"Perfectly entitled to health care, British born, British resident; how are you going to make sure that people have access easily to the National Health Service without having to go through a very humiliating and impossible-to-meet set of demands?" she asked the Public Account’s Committee.

Illegal migrants and access to healthcare

A demand for two forms of ID may result in migrants who have no legal right to be in the country or are awaiting a decision on an appeal, delay seeking healthcare treatment. This is especially concerning if they are responsible for the care of young children.

We will follow this story as it develops.

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