Cambridge Hospital Staff Demand Instant Money from Sick and Ailing Indian Tourist
The UK likes to portray itself as a friendly and inviting place for tourists. Its visa regime informs tourists who possess medical insurance that in case of an emergency they will receive adequate medical treatment without any need to pay the money upfront. But this is not true in reality as the following story illustrates.
VM, aged 73, is an Indian tourist visiting her family in Cambridge UK since June 2011. On Thursday 18 Aug she was admitted to Cambridge's famous Addenbrooke's hospital for an emergency illness and she received good medical care. Her medical insurers contacted the hospital on Friday 19 August in order to confirm her medical insurance cover and to guarantee payment. Yet on Tuesday 23 August and Wednesday 24 August VM received a rude shock in her hospital bed. Staff from the finance department beseiged her sick bed and demanded that she sign a carte blanche document agreeing to pay any/all charges the NHS may levy for her treatment. When it was pointed out that her insurance company was willing to offer a payment guarantee for her treatment they refused to listen and threatened to deport the tourist.
This issue becomes even more important as London prepares to invite tourists for the 2012 Olympic games. As the following article shows, NHS hospitals have made it a policy to use such high handed behaviour to extort cash from patients in their ailing beds.
In short if this behaviour is allowed to continue, if a luckless tourist finds himself in an NHS hospital s/he will not only have to hope to get better soon in a foreign land, but also try to figure out how to arrange large amounts of cash to fob of the finance staff of these hospitals.
You have been warned, visit the UK only if you or your relatives have large amounts of instant cash. Else you and your relatives will be in peril should you have a medical emergency as NHS hospitals fail to honour the legal commitment made when you obtained your visa.
THE DAILY MAIL ARTICLE
Foreigners asked to produce cash in their hospital beds in crackdown on 'health tourists'By OLINKA KOSTER
Last updated at 17:54 30 April 2008
A hospital is pioneering a "get tough" attitude on health tourists - by throwing them out of hospital before their treatment is complete unless they pay up.
It means that foreigners who travel to Britain to get free care on the NHS will now be asked to produce cash or a credit card at their hospital bed.
The new approach has already saved the West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth up to £700,000 a year. Its proximity to Heathrow Airport makes it a particular target for immigrants.
If all hospitals did the same, the NHS could recoup tens of millions of pounds a year from health tourists.
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Crackdown: West Middlessex University Hospital is getting tough on illegal 'health tourists'Andy Finlay, the hospital manager in charge of collecting the money at the Middlesex trust, said patients had to pay up-front - or face being discharged within 48 hours.
"We will discharge a patient before they are well," he insisted.
"We will discharge a patient when they are stable, when we have provided what we have to provide - the minimum benchmark.
"Generally, within the first 48 hours after admission they will be given a price on how much, roughly, their treatment is going to cost.
"If I'm interviewing an inpatient I will be at that patient's bedside and I will ask them there and then for a visa, MasterCard, debit card, or cash. We don't take cheques."
Under the current system, anyone who needs emergency care, such as for a heart attack or accident and emergency treatment after an accident, does not have to pay.
But patients not eligible for free care who attempt to use the NHS for ongoing care or treatment that is not immediately necessary have to pay.
These so-called health tourists normally receive a bill on departure from hospital - but only an estimated 30 per cent of the money is recovered.
Under the pilot scheme, they will be asked to pay at their hospital bed for non-emergency care, or told to leave.
However, they would only be discharged after three consultants have agreed their condition is stable.
In the case of a heart attack victim, NHS patients would normally stay in hospital for 10 days. But anyone not eligible for free care could be asked to leave after 48 hours if they are judged stable.
Most patients told to leave did so willingly, Mr Finlay added - but not all of them.
"I've had two death threats, I've been held up against a wall, I've been grabbed round the throat, I've been manhandled by relatives - verbal abuse is almost day-to-day," he said.
"You have to have a very thick skin."
Last year, a secret Government report based on figures from 12 NHS trusts suggested that the bill for treating health tourists was at least £62million a year.
This did not include the cost of treating foreigners entitled to free healthcare, such as asylum seekers and students.
Health tourists not entitled to free treatment include pregnant women who arrive on holiday visas and give birth here.
Many foreign HIV sufferers also target UK hospitals for treatment, the study from 2005 revealed.
In the case of an HIV patient, a clinical decision would be made as to whether emergency care was needed.
At the time the figures were revealed, Conservative MP Ben Wallace said hospitals appeared to be pursuing a "don't ask, don't charge and don't chase policy".
Cash-strapped hospitals are being pushed further into debt because they are failing to claim the millions owed to them by those abusing the system.
As well as the West Middlesex University Hospital, the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the Luton and Dunstable NHS Foundation Trust have been chosen to take part in the pilot scheme because their catchment areas contain both a "major point of entry to the UK" and a large proportion of asylum seekers.
Mr Finlay said his methods had received an enthusiastic response from across Whitehall - and saved the trust between £600,000 and £700,000-a-year.
"They think it is a fantastic idea, a solution to a relatively new problem," he said.
"It is up to the Department of Health to see how brave they will be to use innovative ways to tackle health tourism."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "It is important that those who are not entitled to NHS services pay for any they receive.
"The Government is currently reviewing access to primary and secondary care for all foreign nationals.
"In doing this we must take into account the implications of any such decisions on the key preventative and public health responsibilities of the NHS.
"We always treat people and do not charge them for emergency treatment, but the thinking behind the pilot schemes is that the NHS is there first and foremost for people who live here."