The trust that runs County Hospital in Stafford is owed nearly £500,000 from patients people who are not entitled to free medical care, including overseas visitors.
A whopping £218,000 of medical bills from the 2015/16 financial year alone is outstanding to University Hospital North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNMT), which also runs Royal Stoke Hospital in the north of the county.
In total, 110 patients from the last five years owe £488,106.93 to the trust, including more than £27,000 which dates back to 2012. UHNMT said the money owed was a ‘very very small’ percentage of its income and , meaning it did not ‘significantly affect’ day to day operations.
Sarah Preston, the trust’s director of finance, said: “The trust has systems and processes in place to recover costs from those who are not entitled to free NHS care.
“Although some of these figures are significant, we will always continue to try to recoup these costs, which is why the outstanding sums will reduce over time.
“The amount owed to the trust at any one time is a very very small percentage of our income, so does not significantly affect our day to day financial operation.”
A total of 14 people owe £27,468 dating back to the 2012/13 financial year.
Another 17 from 2013/14 owe £56,472 while 16 from 2014/15 owe £46,315.67.
The figures in terms of the amount owed and the number of people in debt then jumps for the next two years.
A total of 28 people owe £218,352.93 from 2015/16 while so far this financial year, 35 patients have racked up bills of £139,498.33.
UHNMT says the difference between the figures from 2012 to the present day is because it always tries to recover the costs. meaning the debts from further back will reduce over time.
The trust does not arrange its figures to differentiate between overseas visitors and UK residents not entitled to free healthcare being simply categorised as just those who are not entitled to NHS care.
Those living in the UK are only entitled to free healthcare if they are an ‘ordinarily resident’ in the country.
However, some of the money owed is from overseas visitors who owe more than £1.3 million to hospitals trusts across the Black Country.
When the Express & Star first reported the Black Country figures last month, West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge has previously claimed the debt is a prime example of the national health service becoming the ‘the international health service’.
“It is great when you have paid in to it and need looking after but when it comes to health tourism and the costs are never recouped it is very expensive.
“I have spoken to a lot of hospital staff who say the very basic things, such as trolleys, are not being upgraded and it is no surprise to hear why when money like this is being leached from the system.”Subscribe to our Newsletter