Hospital bills unpaid by foreign patients

Foreign patients are costing hospital trusts in the West Midlands hundreds of thousands of pounds by going missing after operations.

Hospital

Although people from abroad are never refused emergency treatment, costs are not covered by the NHS and have to be chased up retrospectively. But this can be difficult when non-EU patients are living thousands of miles away. The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust is owed £372,986 while Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust is owed £56,124.

Walsall Healthcare NHS trust, which runs the Manor Hospital, is chasing £18,173, The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust £12,091 and Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust £5,217.

Jessamy Kinghorn, spokeswoman for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said the operations could range from treatment for broken bones to unexpected pregnancies, and stroke or heart attack patients.

“We regularly review our processes for charging patients who live abroad, although the money they owe is just a small fraction of our annual budget which is around £418 million,” she said.

Recover

Shahana Khan, director of finance at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Recovering this amount of money owed for operations on non EU patients is not significant for the organisation and we have agreed procedures that we follow to recover all debt.”

Figures from The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Russells Hall Hospital, revealed the trust has invested thousands of pounds in recent years on hiring debt collection agencies to recover the money.

Chief executive Paula Clark admitted some debts were not recoverable.

Aaron Cummins, finance director at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said they were tackling the problem by ensuring methods of payment were arranged in advance of treatments.

No-one from The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust was available for comment.