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NHS to tighten rules for overseas visitors

NHS to tighten rules for overseas visitors

Plans to tighten the rules for charging overseas visitors for NHS treatment are set out in a new consultation paper.

Health Minister John Hutton said:

"The NHS is there to provide a free at the point of use service to people who live here, not those who don't."

The plans will make sure that NHS resources are targeted at those who are entitled to them, while also meeting the UK's international obligations. The rule changes could prevent abuses like:

Failed asylum seekers and others with no legal right to be in the country receiving treatment free of charge

Dependants of someone who is exempt from charges visiting the country briefly just to obtain free treatment

Business travellers and their dependants receiving free treatment if they fall ill or are injured on a trip to the UK

Other proposals include changes to the rules on charging for treatment of UK citizens who have been working abroad for more than five years. There are also new charge exemptions for pensioners who share their time between this country and another European Economic Area country, and foreign students resident in this country.

The current rules have not been reviewed for 14 years. John Hutton said employment and migration patterns have changed since 1989 and the arrangements need to change.

"They need to be fairer and clearer, and there shouldn't be any doubt as to who is eligible for free NHS services and who is not. Visitors to this country need to be in no doubt about their position should they need health care."

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