Don’t forget your passport when visiting hospital - patients told by Department for Health

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Remembering your passport has always been vital for overseas travel but it could now become a necessity for patients when visiting Nottingham’s City Hospital.

Under Government-led proposals to tackle ‘health tourism’, Trusts across the country, including Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, are being given guidance by the Department for Health to verify patients’ British citizenship and eligibility to access free healthcare within the NHS.

In a move to tackle the rising number of foreign nationals visiting Britain in order to claim free hospital treatments, these new measures could save the health service up to £500m a year by 2017/18.

Speaking to a national newspaper, Roger Goss of pressure group Patient Concern, said: “It’s a worthwhile price to pay to attempt to recover the tens of millions owed by health tourists.

“If it is successful, the money recouped could be invested in better care for those patients who are entitled to it for free

In order to meet the guidelines, patients will be asked questions about their residence status in the UK whenever accessing a new course of treatment. Where there is uncertainty about a patients’ residence status, the healthcare provider will ask for documentation, including passports and immigration documents.

But the Department for Health wants to reassure people that no one will be denied urgent treatment whilst charges are being determined.

The new plans also include pilots to look into how GP surgeries can recover the costs from international visitors.

For those who are temporary migrants from outside the European Economic Area and are here for longer than six months, a new health surcharge will be applied when they submit an application for leave to enter or remain in the UK.

Hospital trusts will also come under fire if they fail to adhere to the guidance and neglect their responsibility to claw back the costs of treating overseas visitors.

This could mean financial sanctions for trusts who fail to identify and bill chargeable patients.