UK Impact

Cash paid by European Union migrants to use British hospitals falls despite surge in EU nationals moving to the UK

Critics say the Government had been ‘complacent’ and failed to get a grip on health tourism and Britain was ‘being played for fools’ by its EU neighbours

Critics say the Government has failed to get a grip on health tourism Photo: Alamy (File)

Britain paid out £647.4million to EU countries to cover their health costs last year – but received only £49.7million in return from EU countries treating Britons.

The figure is marginally down on the year before, when hospital trusts in the UK paid out £749.8million, but only clawed back £50.3million.

An NHS hospital sign

While Britain paid £148million to France for health costs, it only recovered £6.7million  Photo: ALAMY


The fall came despite twice as many EU nationals living in the UK as Britons living overseas and a surge in EU migrants moving to the UK.

Critics said the Government had been “complacent” and failed to get a grip on health tourism and Britain was “being played for fools” by its EU neighbours.

John Mann, the Labour MP who unearthed the figures, said: “Sorting out this scandal in itself would transform the financial situation of the NHS. This is a shambolic state of affairs and we are being played for fools.

“This is money that should directly be going into the NHS and it would make a huge annual difference to its finances.”

John Mann MP, who has handed a dossier of evidence to Scotland Yard

John Mann, the Labour MP who unearthed the figures  Photo: PA

Mr Mann pointed out that the discrepancy existed even though there were fewer than two million UK citizens living in the EU, compared to 2.6 million EU citizens living in Britain.

Nearly a third of the cash was paid to Spain, with the UK paying Spain £223million for Britons to use its hospitals; in return Spain paid the UK £3.4million for Spanish users of the NHS.

There are however only 38,000 Spanish citizens living in the UK, compared to 381,000 Brits living in Spain.

A further breakdown of the figures showed that while Britain paid £148million to France for health costs, it only recovered £6.7million, similarly it paid out £25.8million to Germany and received back just £2.2million,

J Meirion Thomas, a hospital consultant who campaigns for tougher action on health tourism, added: “We’ve only got ourselves to blame. The NHS is being run as an international charity and not as a business. These problems are soluble if only we could overcome the intense complacency of the Department of Health.”

A beach in Benidorm

The UK pays Spain £223million for Britons to use its hospitals  Photo: Getty Images

A Department of Health spokesman blamed the imbalance on more British pensioners living in EU countries.

He said: “This Government is determined to make sure our NHS isn’t abused – our tough new measures to clamp down on migrants accessing the NHS are expected to recover more than £500m a year by 2018 and we’re extending charges further to other parts of the NHS including A&E.

“We pay more out than we receive partly because a far greater number of British pensioners live in other EEA [European Economic Area] countries.”

Department of Health sources added that a further reason was because “most migrants living here are eligible for free healthcare as they are working”.

It said that there were 70,000 British pensioners live in Spain compared to 40 Spanish pensioners in the UK, and 42,994 British pensioners living in France compared to 124 French pensioners in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Help put the World to rights and leave a Comment

Notify of
Powered by: Wordpress
%d bloggers like this: