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Nhs (Overseas Visitors)

Volume 202: debated on Tuesday 21 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure that overseas visitors do not abuse the national health service free treatment system.

Treatment in a national health service hospital's accident and emergency department is free to anyone who needs it. Eligibility for free non-emergency hospital treatment is based on residence in the United Kingdom—not on nationality or the payment of taxes. Anyone not ordinarily resident in the UK has to pay for such treatment unless covered by one of a number of specified exemptions.Guidance issued to hospitals by the Department of Health makes it clear that, where there is doubt about eligibility, hospital staff should ask for corroborative evidence or take a refundable deposit in advance. I have asked the NHS management executive to investigate the particular cases raised recently in the press and to write to NHS managers to remind them of the need to apply the existing guidelines. The management executive will follow up with regions to ensure that this instruction is being implemented. We will then re-issue the guidelines taking into account any further findings by the management executive.