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.
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.