Claims on medical tourism debt in the UK


A top London hospital has refuted claims by a national online newspaper that it is owed millions by overseas patients, pointing out that it is taking figures out of context.

The publication claimed that Britain's top children's hospital is chasing more than £30 million for treating overseas patients.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, in London, refuted this by saying that a large proportion of the debt was owed by foreign governments – rather than individual families. Getting money from overseas governments or embassies takes much longer than for other customers but almost all bills are paid.

Managers also confirmed they had taken legal action against one government or embassy to recover £1.5 million of debts. They would not say which country they were chasing or how many patients had been treated without payment.

The trust also said that it had recently been paid £1.5million it was owed by the Saudi Arabia Health Office and £2.7million from Kuwaiti Health Office.

The vast majority of the current debt relates to cases of sponsorship by a government or other international organisation. The hospital requires pre-payment or letter of guarantee from international organisations so the debt is considered legally recoverable.

Payments from embassies can be delayed but only a tiny fraction of embassy debt has ever needed to be written-off – 0.006 %.  The hospital has robust guarantees in place with governments and other international organisations to ensure their debt is recoverable and it is taking steps to ensure this is recovered quicker.

The hospital is internationally renowned for treating seriously ill children particularly for heart disease, cancer, epilepsy and kidney failure. Very sick children from more than 90 countries receive private treatment– many of who are sponsored by their government - because the specialist care they need is not available in their home country.

Spire Healthcare has mothballed plans to open a £500 million new private hospital in London due to a reduction in medical tourism to the UK, fewer referrals from the NHS, high business rates, spiralling property prices and general economic uncertainty due to Brexit, according to the company. But a £27 million bill to pay 750 cancer patients for wrong diagnosis by a surgeon, management changes, and a massive slump in profits may be the real reasons.



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