Hospital reaping benefits of foreign patients scheme

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary
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WIGAN and Leigh hospital chiefs are hailing the early success of a pilot scheme to tackle the cost of treating foreign patients which has already seen them claw back £27,000 in two months.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) volunteered to take part in the European Health Income programme (EHIP) which has been designed to tackle the issue of millions of pounds being lost from the NHS every year by treating foreign patients.

Last year it was revealed that hospital chiefs were chasing £37,246 from overseas patients treated since 2005 and has written off £27,875 in debts racked up by patients.

However, since the programme was started as a pilot project at WWL in December last year, the trust has already recovered £27,000 and those in charge of overseeing the project expect more money to follow.

Collette Ryan, WWL’s local anti-fraud specialist and overseas visitor co-ordinator adds: “What we have started to do differently here at WWL is ask all our patients baseline questions to determine whether they are eligible for free NHS treatment.

“This is fantastic news for both the trust and genuine NHS patients. Since the launch of the scheme in December 2013, we have managed to reclaim over £27,000.00 which can be re-used on patient services and we envisage re-claiming more monies in the coming months which can reinvest to improve our services and care.”

The programme is overseen by the Government who work alongside key organisations such as the Department of Work and Pensions and partnered with the NHS to reclaim treatment received by European visitors during visits to hospitals in England. It involves tighter regulation and questioning of foreign patients visiting WWL. Rob Forster the WWL’s director of finance is the senior sponsor of the EHIP for the North West.

He said: “This is very exciting for WWL as we are the first trust outside of London to be invited to participate in discussions with EHIP in how to make this initiative a success.”

“All NHS trusts have a legal obligation to establish if a person is an overseas visitor, if they are, we have a moral and ethical obligation to recoup the costs back to the United Kingdom and indeed to WWL. “We are now replicating what happens to English patients who go on their holidays abroad and need to use health services in countries in Europe.

“A patient holidaying in Europe would need to present their European Health Insurance card to obtain treatment and in order for that country to be reimbursed from the UK. This initiative allows UK hospitals to do the same.”