LETTER: Counting cost of ‘health tourism’

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Having read an article in the press on the subject of heath tourism, I submitted a freedom-of-information request to Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Worthing, St Richards and Southlands hospitals.

I asked to be told how much the trust billed overseas patients and how much it recouped, and it responded with the relevant amounts for the years 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.

Over these three years it sent out bills amounting to £711,000 and received £415,000 in response.

In other words, a cost to the taxpayers of £296,000, which is money our hospitals cannot afford to lose.

I am in no way placing blame on the trust, as I am sure that it did its very best to reclaim every penny owed to it, but it does go to show how the NHS gets taken advantage of by patients who have no right to use its services free of charge. Incidentally, although it is hard to quantify deliberate misuse of the NHS – that is, use by those who come here specifically to receive free treatment, or who come for other reasons but take advantage of the system when they are here – is thought to be roughly between £110million and £280million a year. Even if it’s just the lower figure that is still an awful lot of taxpayers’ money lost down the drain.

Eric Waters

Ingleside Crescent, Lancing

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