NHS hospital reveals £5m bill as hundreds of pregnant health tourists deluge trust
NHS bosses forced to act after the South London hospital was seen to be an ‘easy target’ by foreign fraudsters
A MATERNITY unit at an NHS hospital was used by around 900 pregnant health tourists last year — costing the taxpayer more than £4million in unpaid medical bills.
Officials say the deliveries from non-EU mums accounted for a fifth of all births at St George’s in Tooting, South London.
Hospital bosses were forced to act after 900 foreign expectant mothers used the NHS for free
Tory MP Andrew Murrison called it “an extraordinary figure”. But a hospital source said: “We’re yet to identify the true scale of the problem.”
Hospital bosses yesterday said they were planning to ask all maternity patients to show ID before being treated acted after being deluged by hundreds of health tourists.
With a routine birth costing £5,000 on average, the trust was left with a bill of around £4.5million.
Just 20 per cent was recovered and debt collection firms are being used to claim the rest.
But patient groups said the money is needed now to pay for front-line services.
The Sun told yesterday how the unit in Tooting, South London, was seen as an “easy target”, with fixers in Nigeria charging women to use the NHS.
A trust report said: “St George’s is targeted as it does not have a robust process to check eligibility.”
A further random sample referenced in the papers found 19 out of 20 patients referred by GPs to St George’s were not eligible for free care.
At least one of those went on to have a heart op costing up to £11,000. The papers say 1,783 overseas patients used maternity services in 2015/16, of which 50 per cent were “chargeable”. The trust last night insisted the figure is provisional and may be lower.
Tory MP Andrew Murrison said he backs St George’s plan to ask mums for photo ID or proof of asylum. He said: “The health service should concentrate its resources on those who are entitled to use its services.”
Health tourism costs the NHS an estimated £2 billion a year. The Department of Health said all trusts are legally obliged to check patient eligibility and recover charges.