British taxpayers have been left to foot a £181,000 bill run up on the National Health Service (NHS) by an illegal immigrant, as health bosses are not bothering to chase up payments for foreign nationals. Overall, millions are being lost due to non-payment prompting a leading cancer specialist to warn that “no health system could cope” with the strain of treating migrants for free on such a large scale.
The NHS threatens to be wiped out within the next few years unless an eight billion pound funding hole can be filled. Yet despite the well-publicised problem, health bosses are persistently failing to get to grips with the financial pressure caused by health tourism – migrants travelling to the UK to use the free-at-the-point-of-service healthcare system, leaving British taxpayers to pick up the tab.
An investigation by The Sun found a litany of examples, including the £181,000 bill run up by an illegal immigrant at Portsmouth Hospitals Trust – which has the seventh worst-performing Accident & Emergency department in the country.
The Royal Berkshire NHS Trust failed to recoup the £136,000 cost of treating another foreign patient, while the University Hospitals of Leicester lost £28,000 on two foreign patients who did not pay.
Central London’s St Guy’s and St Thomas’s Trust has written off a whopping £5.1 million on treating foreign patients, and in East London, Barts Health Trust lost a further £286,000 on caring for foreigners.
Professor Angus Dalgleish, of St George’s, University of London, who ran as a UK Independence Party candidate in last year’s General Election, told The Sun:
“What is the point of making all these terrible cuts to services when you’re not chasing the money you’re owed?
“I know of very ill individuals who have arrived for treatment from other countries and gone straight into intensive care costing thousands of pounds a day.
“When I started in cancer treatment a course of drugs cost around £1,000. Now it’s £60,000 to £100,000.
“The cost is huge. No other healthcare system in the world could cope with it and the abuse of this system must be stopped.”
MigrationWatch chairman Lord Green said: “This is further evidence that the NHS is wide open to people who have no right to use it and make no contribution towards its costs.”
Last year NHS whistle-blowers revealed that managers had instructed them to turn a blind eye to health tourism as it is “too much trouble” to chase them for money. Official estimates place the total cost to the NHS as high as £2 billion a year, while the NHS estimates that only around 16 percent of the total cost of treating foreigners is ever recouped.
In one notorious case it emerged that Homerton University Hospital in East London had failed to bill a Nigerian mother who underwent a complex caesarean section operation in 2011 to deliver her quintuplets at a total cost of £145,000 to the British taxpayer.
The family later returned to Lagos, Nigeria, where the children attend a private school paid for by their wealthy father.
Homerton Hospital admitted that it had only sent one invoice to Miss Ayelabola for the stay, six months after she and her children were discharged. That letter had been returned unopened, and they did not issue another. A spokeswoman said at the time: “If she wishes to contact us [to pay], we would urge her to do so… But we will not be contacting her.”
Last week an NHS doctor highlighted the damage that Britain remaining within the European Union (EU) does to the Health budget. He pointed out that under the terms of Britain’s membership, European citizens are able to travel to the UK for treatment, and that while the NHS can recoup the costs, it often doesn’t.
“This notion of ‘nationalised risk pooling’ – whereby everyone pays in to one system that then provides for everyone who needs it – is easily abused or misused by those who can come to the UK under EU free movement legislation, receive free healthcare and then return to their country,” he said.
Commenting on The Sun’s investigation, a Department of Health spokesman said: “We are determined to make sure our NHS isn’t abused.”