UK health system to extend charges for students

06 January, 2014

International students are likely to be hit with further charges for use of NHS public healthcare services in the UK, following an announcement by the Department of Health.

According to the new policy, visitors and migrants will be subject to new extended charges for primary care services, such as prescription drugs, while some other types of primary services including minor surgery carried out by local GPs are under consideration for extended charging.

Overseas visitors will also be subject to higher charges for some services which are not currently free for domestic nationals, including optical and dental services. Further details on the charges and implementation timescale will be published in March 2014, the department said in a statement.

The new service-specific charges will be in addition to the previously reported introduction of a compulsory NHS service levy for students, to be paid along with visa fees and likely to be set at UK£150 (US$245), according to a government report.

In a Department of Health report published at the end of December, the levy was outlined as the third stage of a plan to recover charges for use of NHS services by non-EU citizens, while the newly announced charges will constitute the fourth stage.

Health Minister Lord Howe said, “Having a universal health service free at the point of use rightly makes us the envy of the world, but we must make sure the system is fair to the hardworking British taxpayers who fund it.

“We know that we need to make changes across the NHS to better identify and charge visitors and migrants. Introducing charging at primary care is the first step to achieving this,” he added.

Daniel Stevens, International Officer at the National Union of Students, criticised the latest developments and said the decision to announce the policy on December 30th was “disgraceful”. Stevens previously wrote about the NHS levy in Study Travel Magazine’s ‘View from the desk of...’ section.

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