Are Foreign Patients Paying Too Little for U.K. Health Services?

  • NHS is undercharging overseas visitors, U.K. lawmakers say
  • Hospitals face funding gap, pressure on emergency services

The U.K. National Health Service is undercharging foreign patients, potentially depriving hospitals of tens of millions of pounds, according to a report by a cross-party panel of lawmakers.

The state-funded provider has been charging visitors from Britain’s closest European neighbors just a fraction of what it is entitled to ask -- 16 percent in 2012-13, the Public Accounts Committee said on Wednesday. It also falls short in recovering fees from visitors from further afield, charging 65 percent, the panel said.

The cost warning comes as Prime Minister Theresa May is under mounting pressure to increase spending on health care. Many hospitals are breaching waiting-time targets amid unprecedented levels of patient demand during the winter months.

“The government’s failure to get a grip on recovering the costs of treating overseas visitors is depriving the NHS of vital funds,” PAC Chairwoman Meg Hillier said in a statement. “It is simply unacceptable that so much money owed should continue to go uncollected.”

The government aims to raise 500 million pounds ($629 million) a year from overseas patients by 2017-18 but is only on track to generate 346 million pounds, according to the committee. NHS hospitals accrued deficits totaling almost 2.5 billion pounds in 2015-16, it said.

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