Visitors owe GWH upwards of £230k
MORE than £230,000 in unpaid fees for treatments at the Great Western Hospital is owed by overseas visitors.
As of August 31, the hospital had £231,168 to reclaim from 93 overseas patients who had been invoiced for treatment, but not paid.
Across the county the average figure owed to NHS hospitals is around £330,000.
An official with Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have seen an increase in the amount of money owed by patients over recent years, since the trust has been more proactive in identifying and invoicing patients required to pay for treatment.
“The demographics of the local population will also impact on the number of patients who are not eligible for free NHS treatment.
“We are always looking at how to improve this process to ensure payment is received.
“The trust is part of the national Overseas Visitors Advisory Group, which works with the Department of Health, National Fraud Unit and other trusts to share learning and look at any improvements which can be made.”
The trust has said it is recovering the money through agreed payment plans, debt collection services and insurance companies.
Information on patients is shared with the Borders Agency and patients trying to leave the UK are prevented from doing so until they pay for treatment in full.
When a patient attends the emergency department, an assessment without any diagnostic tests costs £58.
The average birth costs about £1,300, while heart attack treatment can cost £5,000.
An emergency spinal operation would range from £10,000 to £15,000, a cardiac pacer would cost £8,000, a knee replacement £10,000 and a hip replacement £7,300.
Free NHS hospital treatment is available to any patient residing or working lawfully in the UK for the past 12 months.
Overseas visitors are invoiced for treatment unless an exemption applies, such as that for EU residents.
Urgent treatment is always available to patients, regardless of residence status or ability to pay, says the NHS.
To identify patients who must pay, patients are asked at their first point of contact with trust services how long they have lived in the UK.
If a patient has not been a resident in the UK for the last 12 months they are asked to complete a form and told they may have to pay.