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Current Topics: Health Tourism

By Dukes Medical Applications
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This blog examines the impact of health tourism on the NHS.

Health Tourism

Health Tourism is an increasingly common topic spoke about in the media. It is often described as when overseas visitors come to the UK with the sole purpose of accessing the NHS and this is often referred to as ‘deliberate use.’ Many people have very strong opinions on the matter and it can evoke strong emotions.

However, Health Tourism does not just include this small group of people. It includes many different people including tourists accessing the NHS because they have fallen ill whilst visiting the UK, overseas students studying in the UK, overseas people working in the UK and immigrants. This group of people using the services is described as ‘normal use.’

There is no exact figure on how much it costs the NHS but on average it is thought that the ‘deliberate users’ cost the UK between £110 million and £280 million a year. The ‘normal users’ cost on average the UK £1.8 billion a year. Only small amounts of this money, on average £100 million a year is ever recuperated.  

The NHS advertises itself as ‘free at the point of use.’ Even if charges were to be introduced before treatment was given Accident & Emergency will always be ‘free’ as emergency treatment would never be withheld.

New laws in UK Health Tourism have come into fruition, and as of providers of NHS treatment are required to make sure patients in England are eligible for free care – and charge them if they are not eligible. This will not apply to A&E, general practice and infection disease treatment remain free to all. This comes from the idea that overseas patients should make a ‘fair financial contribution’ in lieu of paying taxes.

So what is the answer? You may be asked your thoughts and suggestions about this topic in an interview and it is crucial that you understand all the information.

Should the UK?

  • Insist on payment or check travel insurance before any non-emergency treatment is given?
  • If the patient cannot pay, should we therefore refuse treatment?
  • What should be classed as emergency treatment?
  • Should we honour the NHS ‘free at the point of use’ to everyone regardless of whether they are a UK national?
  • Should we only allow certain specialities to be accessed such as maternity services?