More than £2.7 million has been owed over the last four years by overseas patients treated at Sheffield’s hospitals - with over £430,000 written off entirely.
Figures obtained through a request to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust under The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign reveal bills worth hundreds of thousands of pounds are issued to foreign patients in the city annually.
According to the statistics, so far this year £465,566 is outstanding, while invoices came to over £700,000 for two years running in 2011-12 and 2012-13. In 2010-11 the figure topped £900,000.
Last year £61,758 was written off completely, following a sum of £252,884 abandoned in 2011-12. In 2010-11, treatment fees worth £138,712 were written off.
Neil Priestley, the trust’s director of finance, said it took a ‘stringent debt recovery approach’ and did ‘everything possible’ to recover debts.
“We attract a high number of foreign patients because of the specialist services we provide, and the fact that we are often asked to provide care from other hospitals who do not have these specialist skills,” he said.
“The amount owed from overseas patients after being treated has reduced considerably year on year since 2010. We have a stringent debt recovery approach and we will continue to do everything possible to recover any monies owed.”
Visitors from most European countries do not have to pay, while overseas patients have to pay the NHS’s going rate if they are admitted to hospital or need to be seen as an outpatient.
But last year the Government announced it would bring in new charges for migrants and visitors from abroad - including bills for A&E. Health Minister Lord Howe said the plans represented a ‘clampdown on abuse of the NHS’.