HC Deb 21 May 2004 vol 421 c1264W
Mr. Yeo

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the scale of health tourism; and if he will make a statement. [160665]

Mr. Hutton

The national health service has never been required to provide statistics on the number of overseas visitors treated under the provisions of the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 1989. It is therefore not possible to give a definitive assessment of the scale of this matter. Nevertheless, NHS staff operating the charging regime have told us that there are significant issues in some areas, which we are taking action to deal with. We are taking forward a study of 12 NHS trusts across England, the results of which will, over time, help to give us a better understanding of the level of inappropriate use of the NHS by overseas visitors.

In addition, on 14 May I launched a public consultation on proposals to exclude overseas visitors from eligibility for free NHS primary medical services. We are also commissioning a study of the use of these services by overseas visitors which will inform our consideration of the responses to the consultation.