THE Conservative party health spokesperson Jackson Carlaw made the comments after it emerged that NHS Scotland is owed nearly £1million from global visitors.
FOREIGNERS should be forced to pay up front or make a deposit for NHS care before receiving elective treatment, according to the Conservative party.
The suggestion was made after it emerged that the health service is chasing payment of almost £1million from around the world, including from a Canadian who received £3000 cardiology care in Fife and an Italian who ran up nearly £1000 in gynaecology bills in Edinburgh.
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Of course if someone is visiting Scotland and requires emergency medical attention we can’t stop them at the door to demand cash, but it should not be beyond the wit of our health service to ascertain one’s ability to pay before receiving elective treatment.
“That could include pre-payment, a deposit system or a credit card authorisation.
“Our NHS budgets are under pressure and that £1million could be used to hire dozens of nurses.
“Taxpayers work hard to help fund our hospitals and we should not let this be abused by those who are taking advantage of our health service.
“Something has to be introduced to clamp down on this happening because once someone is treated and disappears back to their own country, it is nigh-on impossible to get the money owed back.
“I absolutely sympathise with those who need emergency care, but examination of the instances in which treatment was given out shows that many of these procedures would have been pre-planned.
“Our NHS may be the envy of the world but that does not mean the world can have a piece without paying its way.”
Jackson Carlaw MSP
Details obtained by the Tories show about £972,000 outstanding among 11 of 14 regional boards. One authority did not respond, while two are owed nothing.
An American had five separate stays and gave birth at the cost of £4500 in Lanarkshire, the figures show. A Brazilian owes NHS Orkney more than £3000 for renal care.
The largest overall sum is £364,538, owed to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. The smallest is £5807, owed to Fife. NHS Lothian is owed £292,712.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran did not respond to the Tory request for information. Nothing is owed to the NHS in Shetland or the Western Isles.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There are measures in place to make sure overseas visitors pay for treatment and services when appropriate. NHS boards have a duty to take action to recover the cost of treatment and this can include asking overseas visitors to sign an undertaking that they will pay for their treatment before it is provided.
“Where necessary, NHS boards should discuss procedures for pursuing debt with the Central Legal Office which has a contract with an international debt recovery company. Boards must also pass full details of non-payers to NHS Scotland counter fraud services who will liaise with the UK Border Agency. Non-payers can then be refused re-entry to the UK until they settle their outstanding health bill.”
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Foreigners should pay at the door for NHS hospital treatment, Tories demand