Intended for healthcare professionals


Paying for migrant healthcare

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 30 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6514
  1. Johanna Hanefeld, lecturer1,
  2. Neil Lunt, reader2,
  3. Richard Smith, dean1
  1. 1Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Social Work and Social Policy, University of York, York, UK
  1. Correspondence to: J Hanefeld johanna.hanefeld{at}

Recent research allows no easy headlines

Publication of research commissioned by the Department of Health on visitor and migrant access to the National Health Service (NHS) has put the issue of so called “health tourism”—where people travel with the intention of obtaining treatment to which they are not entitled for free on the NHS—centre stage.1 Earlier this year the government consulted on policy proposals for migrant access and financial contribution to the NHS in England.2 These included a migrant health levy on non-EEA (European Economic Area) visitors of £200 annually. The Draft Immigration Bill published earlier this month3 makes legal provision for such a surcharge.

The reports published this week by the Department of Health examine a wide spectrum of use of the NHS by visitors, including British expatriates and EU citizens, as well as irregular migrants and “health tourists.”4 5 Despite media announcements by the secretary of state for health that these groups taken together cost the NHS £2bn a year,1 the report, which places several caveats on the validity of its data and is careful not to overstate its …

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