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Charging of overseas visitors and migrants who use the National Health Service

Statement made on 7 December 2015

Statement UIN HCWS360


The visitor and migrant National Health Service cost recovery programme was established in July 2014 to design and implement improvements in the systems for charging patients who are not resident of the United Kingdom. The programme has focused so far on improving identification and cost recovery from chargeable patients in hospitals.

I am pleased to announce the Department of Health will now seeking the public’s views on extending charging of overseas visitors and migrants who use the National Health Service. We have proposed a number of changes to enable overseas visitors and migrants to be charged for NHS healthcare they receive, in addition to the existing system for cost recovery for hospital treatment. The proposed extension of charging will not affect free healthcare at the point of use for permanent residents of the UK.

The consultation seeks opinions on proposals affecting:
- Primary Medical Care
- NHS Prescriptions
- Primary NHS Dental Care
- Primary NHS Ophthalmic Services (Eye Care)
- Accident and Emergency (A&E)
- Ambulance Services
- Assisted Reproduction
- Non-NHS providers of NHS Care and Out-of-Hospital Care
- NHS Continuing Healthcare
- EEA National’s residency definition
- Overseas visitors working on UK-registered ships

The consultation also seeks views on any further areas that could be considered for charging.

The proposals explored within the consultation aim to support the principle of fairness by ensuring those not resident of the United Kingdom who can pay for National Health Service care do so. The proposals we are consulting on do not intend to restrict access, but aim to ensure everyone makes a fair contribution for the care they receive.

We propose that the most vulnerable people, including refugees, remain exempt from charging. Furthermore, the National Health Service will not deny urgent and immediately necessary healthcare to those in need, regardless of residency. We also propose that exemptions from charging will also remain in place for illnesses that pose a risk to public health.

The potential income generated through the extension of charging will contribute towards the Department of Health’s aim of recovering up to £500 million per year from overseas migrants and visitors by the middle of this Parliament (2017/18). The recovery of up to £500 million per year will contribute to the £22 billion savings required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the National Health Service.

A copy of the consultation document is attached.

Linked statements

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords

Department of Health
Charging of overseas visitors and migrants who use the National Health Service
Mr David Prior
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Conservative, Life peer
Statement made 7 December 2015