A Nigerian woman, who is yet to be identified racked up a £350,000 bill at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital (a National Health Service Trust) in the UK, after she had a caesarean section in 2015.
According to DailyMail, “the shocking figure exposes the scale of abuse of the crumbling NHS by health tourists”.
She was transferred to there from another hospital because of pregnancy complications. Her twins then spent two months in intensive care.
All NHS Trusts are mandated to treat patients first before requesting for any form of patients and this is thought to cost about £280 million a year, with health tourists using the most of that amount.
A spokesman for Luton and Dunstable, in response to a mail sent by DailyMail to all hospitals in England, said that the woman is owing the hospital £348,683.
“This patient was an overseas visitor and was referred to us by another hospital because of complications with her twin pregnancy.”
“As an NHS Trust we cannot refuse to treat a patient, wherever they are from, if there is a danger to life. In this case two unborn babies required immediate care.”
“They were delivered safely but spent two months in our Neonatal Intensive Care and High Dependency units. This is the reason for the high cost and we are currently pursuing the patient for payment,” the spokesperson said.
“The responses from 90 hospitals revealed that 13,077 overseas patients were treated in the UK in 2015-16, including 3,066 mothers who flew in to have their babies.
These women were responsible for some of the highest debts and a significant number are understood to have come from Nigeria.
Imperial College Hospitals in West London said it was chasing a £319,895 bill for a woman who gave birth to triplets. Staff at the trust have since disclosed that this autumn they looked after a 43-year-old Nigerian woman who gave birth to quads. She went into premature labour on the flight to London and one of the babies died.
The costs of caring for the surviving three infants have passed £100,000 and staff predict a final bill of half a million pounds.
Doctors are faced with a dilemma over eligibility because they are obliged to provide immediate medical care regardless of a patient’s nationality or whether they can pay. Experts say our hospitals are being targeted, in particular by wealthy Nigerian mothers-to-be,” Daily Mail said.
According to the report, in 2011, another Nigerian, Bimbo Ayelabola, racked up a bill of £145,000 in giving birth to quintuplets in Homerton Hospital, East London and has not paid the money back.
“Ayelabola has since returned to her home city of Lagos, where she is a makeup artist. She drives a £17,000 car and her five children attend an expensive private school. In 2015 she told the Daily Mail she had never been sent a bill by the NHS. She added: ‘If (health tourism) is a problem, you should talk to the NHS. I have never received my bill. If I had it, I would pay it’,” the report added.
Experts and stakeholders are complaining of the eligibility of patients to access the health services, adding that the NHS Trusts cannot continue to fund “international health service”.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘The NHS is in a critical state due to lack of resources, so any abuse from health tourism should be stopped. The sums of money are astonishing. Most patients would be concerned about the vast sums of money not being reclaimed and the potential for this money to be spent on frontline services and staff – which could improve the quality of care and the time in which people receive care.’
Professor Meirion Thomas, a cancer surgeon who formerly worked at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, said: ‘These massive debts are staggering and should be investigated by NHS fraud officers. Patients don’t arrive at specialist hospitals with serious illnesses by chance. It is likely there are facilitators and accomplices who enable this fraud. They may be friends or relatives or even health professionals.’
Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘This has been a longstanding problem and it costs millions a year. We need the Health Service to implement a system whereby the person going in for treatment has a right to have it or has the means to pay.’
Andrew Bridgen, another Tory MP, said: ‘Those who are not eligible for free healthcare must pay. If we don’t address this issue it will only grow.
‘There appears to be huge reluctance amongst clinicians not to charge people for free healthcare. We cannot afford to fund an international health service.’