THOUSANDS of pounds worth of medical treatment owed by foreign patients has been written off by Wigan’s hospital trust.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary is chasing £37,246.01 from overseas patients treated since 2005.
However, over the past five years, the hospital, which is run by Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) has written off £27,875.46 in debts racked up by patients.
In the same period, the figures revealed that 44 people have been treated at RAEI, at a cost of £79,878.63.
A spokesman for WWL said: “Overseas patients essentially fall in to one of two categories; patients coming from countries who have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, who do not pay for their treatment, and patients from other countries who are required to pay for their care in advance of any treatment.
“The full cost of treatment is not known until after discharge, so the upfront payment is usually an estimate with the balance paid after discharge.
“Establishing a patient’s right to treatment in the UK is complicated, and unfortunately there are instances where treatment is provided free to the patient.
“If it subsequently transpires that the patient should have paid for their treatment, recovery of the fee is difficult, and this can result in the debt having to be written off.
“Any debt written off by a trust is a cost to the organisation.
“The trust follows the Department of Health’s guidelines regarding treatment of overseas patients.
“Only after extensive follow-ups, and at the point where the debt is deemed irrecoverable, the trust would identify this as a bad debt and write it off as a loss to trust finances.
“Although the debt is written off in the trust’s books we do continue to chase payment.
“As a follow-up, the trust lodges a complaint with the respective country’s embassy, which has resulted in refusal of visas to return to the UK until such time as the account is settled.
“Additionally, as part of the stage two processes if the patient is believed to be in the UK illegally, the Borders Agency is informed.
“The Non-Reciprocal overseas visitor budget is 0.002% of the trust’s total income.”