The NHS is a national, not an international, service. This Government were the first to introduce tough measures to clamp down on visitors accessing free NHS care, including introducing the immigration health surcharge. The steps we have taken have meant that income raised from visitors and migrants has risen threefold in three years, from £97 million in 2013-14 to £289 million in 2015-16.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but does he agree that recovering more money from chargeable patients requires a culture change among NHS staff? Does he therefore share my dismay that the leader of the doctors union dismisses the need even to address this issue, while calling for additional investment in our NHS?
I agree with my hon. Friend that we need increased awareness and appropriate participation by all NHS staff in achieving this policy, but I also agree with one thing that Dr Mark Porter said—that sick and vulnerable patients must not be put off seeking necessary treatment, as this may be bad for their health and for that of the public in general. This has always been a clear feature of our policy, so to be clear, this policy does not withhold immediately necessary or urgent treatment, but it makes sure that the NHS is fairly reimbursed by those who are not entitled to free care.
As the Minister will know, the Public Accounts Committee has looked in detail at this issue, and we were rather shocked to discover that the Government themselves are woeful at collecting money from EU citizens who use our hospitals and for whom the Government are then responsible for getting the money from their home Government. When will the Government get their act together to make sure that this money comes into our NHS?
I am always grateful for advice from the Public Accounts Committee, which looks into areas where the Government can recover moneys to which they are entitled. There was an article in today’s Times which referred to outstanding sums, and we are taking steps to try to increase recovery rates in the years ahead.