Ipswich: Hospital lumbered with �100,000 debt from foreign patients

NEARLY �100,000 is owed to Ipswich Hospital by foreign patients - with the treatment of one patient racking up half of that debt.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that over the last two years the hospital has been left to chase �95,000 from overseas patients.

Of this, �54,000 was spent on treating a patient from the Sudan who required emergency care.

Last year, the EADT reported how the hospital had been forced to write off nearly �200,000 debt amassed from 2005 to 2011. A further request has revealed the additional �95,000.

The latest revelation has prompted MP Dan Poulter to defend Ipswich Hospital who he says are doing all they can to recoup the money.

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He said: “Of course I would rather see the �100,000 spent on local patients than foreign patients, but Ipswich Hospital are aware of the situation and are doing all they can to rectify the situation.

“Generally speaking hospitals in the east are quite good at claiming this money back, but the system as a whole is at fault. It needs tightening. There is a national review of the situation.”

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He explained how patients who come from outside the EU - such as the patient from the Sudan - are only given emergency treatment, but that this can be difficult to define. Another patient from Sri Lanka owes �7,074 for treatment.

He added: “It is a very complicated issue, and not black and white. What we need to ensure is that no frontline staff have to deal with any money queries.”

However, Robert Oxley of the TaxPayers’ Alliance described the debt as “shocking” especially when NHS resources are so squeezed.

He said: “It’s shocking that a number of foreign nationals have been able to walk away from such huge medical bills, particularly when NHS Trusts are fighting to ensure that every penny resources is focused on frontline services.

“Foreign patients are of course entitled to treatment in emergency situations but the NHS needs to do more to recoup money from insurers or a patient’s country of origin instead of writing it off.”

A spokesperson from Ipswich Hospital said the hospital had a duty of care to treat every patient through the door.

“We do everything we can to safeguard NHS funds. We do everything we can to reclaim the money. No debt is every written off.

“We deal with an overall budget of �240m so in terms of the �54,000 owed by one patient it is quite a small amount. It does not take long to build up that debt. If a patient is being treated for a complicated cardiac arrest it wouldn’t be uncommon for the treatment to run in the thousands.

“The hospital has strong processes in place to retrieve these payments and monies owed are only written off after all reasonable efforts are made to obtain the payment.”

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