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Charging overseas patients upfront could cause “chaos,” BMA warns

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j655 (Published 06 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j655
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. London

Hospitals in England will have a legal duty to charge patients who are not resident in the UK in advance of non-urgent planned treatment from 1 April, but the BMA has warned that the new regulations could cause “chaos and confusion” and would be a challenge to implement from scratch within such a tight timescale.

Under the new regulations, hospitals will have to check that all patients are eligible for free NHS treatment—for example, by asking them to produce a passport or birth certificate as well as evidence that they are a UK resident, such as a utility bill or bank statement. Hospitals or NHS bodies will then be expected to indicate patients who are chargeable so that the NHS can more easily recoup costs from visitors from overseas.

Hospitals are already supposed to charge patients who live outside the European Economic Area for non-urgent treatment, including elective procedures such as hip operations, but this can be done afterwards by invoice …

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