Overseas patients have left Sheffield’s hospitals with an unpaid bill of more than £670,000 in the last four years, it has been revealed.
Patients not entitled to free treatment on the health service but who were looked after by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since April 2013 owe a collective £676,896.
Almost £200,000 is owed for the six months between April and September this year alone.
The trust has written off £57,000 of the figure as ‘unrecoverable’, with the remainder still outstanding.
In the same time, the trust did manage to recover £669,078 from patients required to pay for care.
Figures from the hospitals show more than 600 people who do not qualify for NHS care have been treated in Sheffield since April 2013.
The most frequently used services by non-EU patients were pregnancy and maternity care – 34 per cent – followed by X-ray – 19 per cent – and A&E – 13 per cent.
Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust is owed more than £42,000, having been able to recover just £12,000 since April 2011. It has dealt with 29 non-EU patients.
National figures show overseas patients left the NHS with an unpaid bill of almost £30 million in 2015-16. Sheffield was one of 29 hospital trusts across the country owed more than £100,000.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “It is shocking so many costs are left unpaid by overseas patients using the NHS.
“If this money was reinvested in the NHS it could mean hiring more nurses or paying for additional equipment.
“Patients have very strong feelings about overseas visitors, and understandably, patients feel that an NHS with diminishing resources should be prioritising UK citizens first and foremost.”
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “It is important that costs are recouped from patients who are not eligible for NHS treatment, but systems to charge migrants and short term visitors need to be practical, economic and efficient and must not jeopardise access to healthcare for those who need it.
“A doctor’s duty is to treat the patient in front of them, not to act as a border guard.
“Sick and vulnerable patients must not be deterred from seeking necessary treatment, otherwise there may be serious consequences for their health and that of the public in general.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “The NHS is a national – not an international – health service and we are determined to stamp out abuse of the system.”