07:30 06 July 2013
NHS is not an international service – this is the message that ministers want to get across to foreigners visiting the country.
Proposals to charge foreigners staying in the country to use NHS services have been unveiled. Under the scheme, visitors who stay for up to five years could be charged at least £200 per year.
Rules on getting free treatment and other medical services would be tightened. In addition, access to GPs would be chargeable. The government said that NHS, which is one of the most generous systems in the world, can easily be abused by those people who intend to cheat the system.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health said that NHS spends at least £30m every year to treat foreigners in England alone. Although visitors from outside the EEA are required to pay for hospital treatment, only a fraction of charges are collected as confirmed by the government.
Mr Jeremy Hunt said the government needed to "ensure that those residing or visiting the UK are contributing to the system in the same way as British taxpayers and ensure we do as much as possible to target illegal migration".
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