4 Jul 2013

Health levy on migrants and visitors considered by UK

6:07 am on 4 July 2013

Britain is considering charging a levy on new migrants to cover healthcare costs for their first five years in Britain.

New plans announced on Wednesday show people from outside Europe staying for up to five years, would face an annual charge of at least £200.

The BBC reports residency rules would be tightened on free treatment and other services, such as access to GPs, would be chargeable.

Under existing rules, visitors from outside the European Economic Area should pay for hospital treatment - but the only a fraction of charges are collected.

The government says the NHS is one of the most generous systems in the world, but it is also "open to abuse by those intent on cheating the system".

The Department of Health said the cost to the NHS of treating foreigners is at least £30 million per year in England alone. An audit is to be held to work out the extent of the problem.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC the levy would largely affect foreign students and the £200 figure was considered competitive with what other countries charged foreign students.