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Health Services

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 4 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent assessment he has made of levels of use of the NHS by people who have no right to free treatment. (253412)

The National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 1989, as amended, set out the criteria for eligibility for free NHS hospital care. It is the legal responsibility of all hospital trusts to ensure that the eligibility of all patients seeking treatment is confirmed and, if they are not eligible for free health care, that the appropriate charges for treatment are levied and subsequently recovered. The Department has provided comprehensive guidance on implementation of the charging regulations to help the NHS to discharge their responsibilities. Most hospitals employ staff specifically to undertake these duties.

We are committed to taking the strongest possible action to tackle abuse in NHS, including that committed by foreign nationals. The NHS Counter Fraud Service will thoroughly investigate allegations of fraud and also take steps to ensure that, wherever possible, fraud is prevented from occurring in the first place.

The Department is satisfied that these procedures ensure that the regulations are applied fairly and effectively, and that there has been no recent evidence that would justify any further assessment of levels of abuse at this time.