Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Foreign patients run up massive debt at hospital

OVERSEAS patients owe hundreds of thousands of pounds in unpaid bills to Sheffield's adult hospital it was claimed today.

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has outstanding debts totalling £296,586 from foreign patients not entitled to treatment on the NHS.The Trust, which runs the Royal Hallamshire, Northern General, Weston Park, Jessop Wing and Charles Clifford Dental hospitals, has been named as the 10th worst hospitals trust in the UK for unpaid bills for NHS treatment for overseas visitors from 2005.Overall health tourism is costing the NHS £9 million in unpaid bills.It is not clear why people are not paying for treatment in Sheffield.But in London, hospitals say large bills have been run up by pregnant women coming to Britain from overseas to give birth - then going home without paying.

The news comes at a time when Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is having to make efficiency savings of £90 million over the next three years to reach Government efficiency targets.A spokeswoman for the trust said the balance will gradually fall as some visitors who cannot pay immediately for treatment will pay the money back gradually on a monthly basis.She added: "A significant proportion of the unpaid treatment relates to overseas visitors who have taken ill whilst visiting the country. "The trust does have in place a policy relating to re-payment plans to assist overseas visitors in paying for their treatment."
18 October 2006

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