UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce the NHS plans to charge foreign visitors and migrant patients for receiving emergency services, including ambulance care and diagnostic tests. Under the proposed system, aimed at eliminating the so-called “health tourism” from the country, foreign patients and tourists from outside the European Union, who avail Accident & Emergency (A&E) services, will have to pay for the services.

The UK government is seeking to save as much as £500 million (AUD$682 million) a year within three years through this system, which is expected to cover dental services, physiotherapy, eye care, blood tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests. However, GP visit will continue to remain free to keep public health safe from infectious diseases.

“We want to make sure that everyone makes a fair contribution to services, by extending charging to make sure visitors pay for the care they receive,” the Telegraph has quoted Hunt as saying. Migrants are at present required to pay only for services judged to be non-urgent and in-patient treatment at hospitals.

The government has, however, clarified that nobody would be denied emergency care and urgent treatment shall continue to be given without first taking payment or asking for any identity or other documents.

Reacting sharply to the proposed changes in the health system, Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston has criticised the move. "A&E charging may look straightforward but as we don't, nor should, demand proof of identity at front desk, unclear how this is enforceable,” says the former GP, who is chairman of the all party health select committee in the British Parliament. Wollaston suggests excluding testing for infectious disease from A&E and GP urgent care.

Contact the writer at or tell us what you think below