To ask the Secretary of State for Health, with reference to the Government publication, Sustaining Services, ensuring fairness: Government response to the consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to NHS provision in England, published on 30 December 2013, what steps his Department has taken to tackle the issues set out in that report; and if he will make a statement.
Following the public consultation undertaken in August 2014 and the Government’s response of December 2014, the Department has been working to design and implement key improvements through its Visitor and Migrant NHS Cost Recovery Programme. The programme has the stated aim to recover up to £500 million per year from chargeable overseas visitors and migrants (or their home countries) by the middle of the next Parliament. This will be reinvested into the National Health Service to support the sustainability of NHS frontline services.
The Department published an Implementation Plan on 14 July 2014 outlining its intentions for 2014-16. It describes how the Department will assist the NHS to improve the identification rates of chargeable patients and rates of recovery for healthcare provided to such patients over the next year. It includes a number of measures to support NHS frontline staff, and how legislative change brought about by the Immigration Act 2014 will be translated into achievable outcomes within the NHS. It also lays the foundations for the broadening of the current charging rules to include additional areas of healthcare in the future.
The plan outlines four phases of work that are being undertaken:
- Phase 1 – Improving the existing system
Improves existing systems; develops and delivers financial incentives, encourages sharing of best practice, provides for a training curriculum for NHS staff, and establishes a cost recovery support team to deploy to NHS trusts.
- Phase 2 – Aiding better identification of chargeable patients
Works with delivery partners to make changes to our existing identity verification mechanisms and registration processes within the NHS (primary and secondary care).
- Phase 3 – Implementing the health surcharge
Delivers legislative change to support the introduction of the health surcharge (introduced through the Immigration Act 2014) and possible amendment of existing exemptions.
- Phase 4 – Extension of the current charging
Reviews current overseas visitor charging rules and explores extending the scope of charging in secondary care, and the possibility of introducing charging in certain primary care settings.