Hospitals chase foreign debts

SUFFOLK hospitals are currently trying to trace more than £100,000 for treatment they have given to overseas patients not entitled to free healthcare on the NHS, it has today emerged.

SUFFOLK hospitals are currently trying to trace more than £100,000 for treatment they have given to overseas patients not entitled to free healthcare on the NHS, it has emerged.

Vast sums have already been written off - including over £130,000 from one patient alone - and now health chiefs are enlisting top overseas tracing agents to clamp down on the problem.

Debt accrued from foreign patients evading the system currently stands at £107,599 at Suffolk's two major acute hospitals - Ipswich and West Suffolk.

After hearing that the county's hospitals have no insurance to cover them on the treatment, a Suffolk health campaigner has called for more vigorous checking procedures to be put in place, including holding passports, to ensure less money is lost to travellers.


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Debt enforcement agencies are being recruited by Ipswich Hospital finance chiefs but they still had to write off a combined £152,962 for the treatment of five individual patients over the last three years. As it stands, the hospital currently has £21, 359 outstanding. West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds has £86, 240 outstanding.

Prue Rush, the former spokeswoman of the now disbanded Ipswich patient and public involvement forum, said: “We do not want to discourage foreigners coming here but we cannot afford to just let them run free for their treatment when it is not free for us.

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A spokesperson for the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust said their debt was reviewed at least one a month.

She said: “We do not have insurance as the amounts for our hospital are relatively small - of the 41 visitors treated in our last financial year only two invoices for £2,100 have been written off. We had one large account previously where we had to write off £133,000 that related to a patient who was diagnosed with cancer,” she said.

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