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International private patients boost FT finances

International private patients boost FT finances


Foreign private patients paid a total of £42 million to NHS foundation trusts, a study has revealed. 

Published in PLOS ONE, the study suggests that people who travel over to the UK specifically for treatment could be a “lucrative” source of finance for the NHS. 

Medical tourists, who come to the UK with the intention of paying for treatment, made up a quarter of foundation trust (FT) finance in 2010/11. 

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the University of York made 28 freedom of information requests to FTs. 

Of the 18 that provided useable data, only 7% of private patients were internationals. 

Lead author, Dr Johanna Hanefeld, lecturer in Health Systems Economics at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: “Our analysis shows that private foreign patients may be more lucrative than UK patients treated privately within the NHS. 

“This could be a strategic area for growth for NHS Trusts wishing to expand private patient activities and increase income, especially following the NHS reforms which removed the cap on income generated from private patients.”

But the study also revealed that the UK is a ‘net exporter’ of patients. In 2010, an estimated 63,000 UK residents travelled abroad for treatment, while around 52,000 patients came to the UK for treatment. 

Dr Hanefeld said: “The level of patients travelling to the UK has remained relatively stable over the last decade, while there has been a substantial increase in the number of UK residents travelling abroad for medical treatment.”

This study focused on medical tourism, where there is intent to pay, rather than health tourism, where there is not always intent to pay. 


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