UK’s NHS to charge foreigners ‘healthcare levy’

London: Foreigners from non-EU countries, including Indians, coming to stay in Britain for over six months will be charged around 200 pounds per year as 'healthcare levy' to prevent abuse of the countrys publicly funded healthcare system.
 
A charge of around 200 pounds per year will be added to visa costs for students and foreign workers as part of proposals unveiled in a UK government consultation here today, which also include stopping free GP access to short term visitors.
 
"We have been clear that we are a national health service not an international health service and I am determined to wipe out abuse in the system," said health secretary Jeremy Hunt in reference to the new plans.
 
"We pay about 5,000 pounds a year for every family in the UK in taxes to pay for our NHS and we want to ask other people who are visiting the UK to make a fair contribution if they're not paying those taxes. We want to have a system that is sustainable, but also one that is fair to hardworking British families," he added.
 
The UK government believes some people come to the UK to take advantage of the free health system and plans to carry out an audit to determine the extent of the problem.
 
According to the Department of Health, a report from 2003 found that the cost of treating foreign nationals in hospitals was up to 200 million pounds a year.
 
Changes may also be made to how hospitals reclaim costs from EU patients and short-term visitors.
 
The latest package of immigration measures is being seen as an attempt to tackle the growing electoral threat posed by the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) to the Conservatives.
 
Some doctors have raised fears that they could be forced to act like "border guards" checking patients' immigration status.
 
"My first duty is to my patient. I don't ask where they're from or whether they've got a credit card or whether they can pay," Royal College of GPs chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada.