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Foreign Nationals (NHS Services)

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 18th October 2011.

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Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood 2:30 pm, 18th October 2011

What progress he has made on reducing the number of foreign nationals using NHS services without payment.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

We have updated and simplified regulations and guidance on identifying and charging visitors who must pay. Immigration rules now before Parliament will allow the UK Borders Agency to refuse entry to visitors with an unpaid debt to the NHS, and we are now reviewing this area more fundamentally to identify further improvements.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood

I thank the Minister for that answer. On 19 July, I spoke in the House about foreign nationals using the NHS without payment and, having entered a freedom of information request to each foundation trust and PCT, I now have a more accurate picture of the sums involved. It suggests that some £15 million has been completely written off. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the findings and what possible solutions might be found to tackle this important issue?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

I share my hon. Friend’s concerns about this important issue and challenge for the NHS. I would be more than happy to see the results of his FOI request, and I or a colleague would also be happy to meet him to discuss the matter further.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee

There is a relatively painless way to deal with this. At the time that the visa is applied for, the person should sign an undertaking that they will pay the costs of NHS treatment. Will the Minister talk to the Minister for Immigration to see whether it is possible to introduce such a requirement?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. We are looking at a range of options and I am more than happy to pass on his suggestions to my hon. Friend for them to be considered.