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NHS: missionaries miss out

Concerns have been raised regarding the NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015 which will come into force on 6 April and as to how these will affect missionaries who require hospital treatment.

Global Connections / various

Figure Image
St. Thomas’s Hospital, London | photo: iStock

The Government has taken the view that, since the UK has a residency-based health-care system, free NHS hospital treatment should only be provided to visitors in rare cases, for example when they are working for the UK Government (including on humanitarian projects) or when an international obligation requires it.

Exemptions removed

Consequently, the specific exemption for those working for a UK-based mission will be removed, along with many other current exemptions for former UK residents, including UK state pensioners living outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and those who are in employment overseas where that employment has not yet lasted five years. Any of these individuals who need NHS hospital treatment will be charged for it if they are not considered ordinarily resident in the UK. If their sole residence is outside the EEA, they will be charged at 150 per cent of the national tariff for the treatment provided.

However, many of those who are temporarily posted overseas from a UK-based organisation to volunteer or act as a missionary will continue to be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment when they return to the UK on the basis of being ordinarily resident here. This will depend on the facts of their case, and whether they can still be said to be properly settled here, for example by having an address in the UK to which they regularly return between assignments.

Okay once back to stay

Those who are no longer considered ordinarily resident in the UK will be charged for NHS hospital treatment during visits but, encouragingly, not once they return to reside, even if only for a short time. There is no charge to anyone, including those not ordinarily resident in the UK, for GP consultations, treatment provided in an A&E unit or for the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases.