25 March 2013

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is through access to primary care that the initial control must take place, but that all hospitals should have an overseas visitors manager who should be designated and required to collect overseas visitors’ moneys on a more regular basis and using a more joined-up and coherent way of working with the other agencies involved?

Mr Hunt: What my right hon. Friend says bears very careful consideration. He is absolutely right that primary care is a critical access point, and we need to look at that. We also need to look at the burdens we place on GPs. I think that ultimately the easy way we will do that is through proper digital patient records, which will allow NHS professionals to find out about the medical history of people accessing the NHS at any point, including whether they are likely to be eligible for free treatment.

Source: Hansard, HC Debate, 25 Mar 2013 : Column 1292

With regard to hospitals, my right hon. Friend makes a very interesting point about an overseas visitors manager. One of the problems we have is that the incentives in the system positively disincentivise hospitals from declaring foreign users of the NHS. If they declare someone not to be entitled to free NHS care, they have to collect the money from that person themselves, whereas if they do not declare the person not to be entitled to free NHS care, they get paid automatically by their primary care trust or clinical commissioning group. The incentives in the system have acted to suggest that this is a much smaller problem than I believe it is.