This week, UK government ministers announced that overseas visitors and migrants are to face new charges for some NHS services in England, including some emergency care, extended prescription fees and higher rates for optical and dental services. The government is of the view that the UK’s health system is ‘overly generous’ to those who have a temporary relationship with the UK and as such ministers are putting plans in place to extend NHS charging for overseas visitors and migrants.
UK Visitors & Non-EEA Nationals to Pay for NHS Treatment
Last week, the government published their response to the consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to NHS provision in England. In their response, they highlighted their view that the UK’s health system is overly generous to those who have only a temporary relationship with the UK. They also recognised that the NHS struggles to identify and recover the cost of care from those not entitled to free treatment.
Who should pay for their NHS Treatment?
The government summarised that the following should be charged for treatment they receive in the future:
- Visitors (those in the UK for less for 6 months): Will be expected to continue to pay for their treatment whilst in the UK and should be expected to have adequate travel insurance to cover any unnecessary or unexpected health needs whilst in the country.
- Non-EEA temporary migrants: workers, students, family members currently have free access to the NHS. The Immigration Bill intends to amend the current rules so that permanent residence will be set as the new qualifying criteria for free NHS care for non-EEA migrants subject to immigration control. Further, temporary non-EEA migrants will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge as part of any visa application.
- Illegal migrants (including failed asylum seekers liable to removal, illegal entrants and those who have overstayed their visas): Government is of the view that they should not be afforded benefits of free access to the NHS and should be continued to be charged.
BMA: NHS Charges for Migrants ‘Will Cause Confusion & Bureaucracy’
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) has spoken out against the government’s plans and believes that requiring GP’s to spend more time on paperwork and bureaucracy needed to regulate the new charges could mean the system will end up costing more to run than in revenue.
Dr Mark Porter stated: “[The proposals] are likely to create a complex patchwork of charging and access entitlements where some services remain free, such as GP appointments, while others will be chargeable, including A&E visits and other services provided via many GP practices, such as physiotherapy.”
Successful UK Visitor Visa Applications
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If you are planning on visiting the UK or migrating to the UK and wish to know how the government’s plans affect you, please contact us so that we can provide you with comprehensive legal advice.
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