The UK paid out £674 million in health costs to European countries, but received only £49 million in return. Addressing this could “transform the financial situation of the NHS”.
A Parliamentary question from John Mann MP revealed that the UK does not recover the costs of balancing the huge deficit of £625 million, The discrepancy is partly due to how the NHS recoups the money it is owed, but also partly because the costs of treating UK citizens abroad are high in comparison to the costs of treating European citizens in the UK.
It is claimed the amounts involved are relatively small compared to the overall NHS budget, so the claim that changing this “in itself would transform the financial situation of the NHS” is exaggerated.
But it’s a matter of principle for the UK. The UK Government reimburses other European Economic Area countries and Switzerland for the cost of providing treatment to people it is responsible for under European Union law, irrespective of nationality.
In the same way, other EEA countries and Switzerland reimburse the UK for the cost of the NHS providing treatment to people they are responsible for under EU law, including UK nationals insured in another EEA country or Switzerland.
The UK Government has said that cost recovery is poor because the NHS struggles to identify patients whose treatment costs it can recover under this scheme. This means that the UK is unable to invoice the appropriate country for the costs of treatment. The Government has been trying to improve this process. A 2017 evaluation of this work said that there had been “good progress towards increasing cost recovery from EEA patients, although this has slowed significantly”.
Bad debts show UK/France loss to UK circa £141million, UK/Germany loss to UK circa £23million, UK/Spain loss to UK circa £220million. John Mann suggested “This is a shambolic state of affairs and we are being played for fools”. He’s right! Send in the bailiffs!