UK govt to use 'debt collectors' to recover money health tourists owed to NHS trusts

The Daily Telegraph reported that the UK government was preparing to send in teams of expert 'debt collectors' to serve National Health Service (NHS) trusts. Also in a bid to boost the recovery of the amount of money owed by overseas visitors, the government was preparing a further crackdown.

Ministers were working on plans to introduce charges for overseas patients who used Accident & Emergency departments, ambulance services, maternity units and GPs.
Currently charges were only recouped for non-urgent care.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said he was determined to strengthen measures to ensure the NHS was not "abused".

The move comes as the National Audit Office (NAO) said the National Health Service (NHS) would miss its target of recovering £500 million ($608 million) a year from treating overseas patients, the National Audit Office (NAO) said. According to the government's spending watchdog, the Department of Health and the NHS had made progress over the years in recovering the cost of treating foreign visitors, who were not entitled to free hospital treatment.

However, it added that current trends and charging rules indicated that it could fall short of £150 million of the target by 2017-18.

The Department of Health had launched a programme in 2014 as concerns increased,  that the NHS was "overly generous" to overseas visitors. The programme was meant to implement existing regulations more effectively to help the NHS increase revenue from overseas visitors, in a measure aimed at improving the finances of the NHS, the publicly funded national healthcare system for England.

Following the introduction of the programme, the collections of NHS's hospital trusts increased from £73 million in 2012-13 to £289 million in 2015-16. However, NAO said it expected only £346 million to be collected in 2017-18, which was significantly less than the £500 million target.