£30,000 owed by overseas patients

The new Scarborough Hospital reception
The new Scarborough Hospital reception

SCARBOROUGH’S NHS Trust is owed more than £30,000 in hospital bills, racked up by overseas patients not entitled to free treatment.

The figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request to Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, show that since February 2009, £33,229.41 has either been written off or is currently being chased by the Trust.

The numbers include £10,297 that the trust is still chasing from a Syrian patient who underwent treatment in May 2010.

The highest amount written off was for £5,701, owed to them from a Thai patient who underwent treatment in August and September of 2009.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “As an NHS trust we have a duty of care to provide healthcare to anyone whose life or long-term health is at immediate risk.

“We do have systems in place to try to ensure we identify and receive payment from overseas visitors prior to medical treatment, however in an emergency situation this is not always possible and emergency care is provided regardless of ability to pay.”

Of the 23 occasions in which the trust has billed a foreign patient since 2009, it has only recovered the money nine times, with eight of those coming from American patients.

In total, the trust had recovered £9,844.26, which is less than a quarter of the £43,073.95 it has billed patients for since 2009.

However, in 2011, the amount of money billed was the lowest of the three years.

The spokesperson said they were taking measures to try to not only recover the money, but prevent future non-payments.

They added: “When money is owed, we take every reasonable measure to recover debts from overseas patients.

“We work closely with counter fraud services, embassies and UK border agencies to ensure that payment is received before individuals leave the country and use debt collection agencies to trace overseas debtors and collect any outstanding debts.

“Where the patient has already left the country, we share information with the border agency to ensure that they are identified upon next attempting to enter the country.”

The news comes as the trust is expected to miss its original savings target.

Figures show Scarborough and North East Healthcare NHS Trust to be awry of its aimed financial position for this year, along with trusts from Hull and East Yorkshire, Barnsley, Bradford and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Bosses at the York trust, which will take over the Scarborough trust in July, predict the combined savings target of £18 million in the coming year will be a “significant challenge.”

The Scarborough trust will continue to receive a subsidy worth £8 million a year to cover the extra costs of its services.

David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures show just how tough NHS trusts are finding it to make savings and changes to local services without impacting on patient care.

“The rising costs of technology and the increased pressure on services as a result of our increasingly ageing population means we are going to have go faster and harder with our savings plans in the coming years if we are to cope with future demands.

“In many ways, the really difficult decisions are yet to come.

“NHS trusts need to be open with the public about the impact their planned savings programmes will have on services.

“In some cases it may mean closing some local services or merging others to concentrate healthcare expertise.

This won’t be easy, but it will be necessary if we are to continue to provide a high standard of care with less money in the future.”