Tony Brooks for the Daily Express reports that a Welsh resident claims he was treated like a health tourist by English hospital bosses who branded him a “foreigner” and billed him £1,775.
Nicholas White fell ill while visiting relatives in Cambridgeshire before Christmas and spent three days in a local hospital undergoing tests.
When he went back to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon for a follow-up procedure a few weeks later he was stunned to be told that he was expected to pay.
On returning to Barmouth, North Wales, the retired teacher received a bill from Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust demanding immediate payment – followed by another claiming it was overdue.
English-born Mr White, 64, who has lived in Wales for 15 years, had been advised by his GP tro return to Hinchingbrooke because he would have to wait six months to be treated locally.
He said: “Moments before I was due to have the procedure I was ushered into a side-room by an administrator and told I would have to pay for the examination and the previous three-day stay because I was ‘technically a foreigner’.
“I was lost for words when it was explained. Then last week I had a reminder warning me my balance was overdue.
“It was completely unacceptable – I was made too feel as if I was a health tourist scrounger. I felt I was being hounded for payment.”
The hospital has since admitted making an error but Mr White added: “I found the whole episode upsetting and the charges unsettling. I recently retired and do not have access to that sort of money.”
A Hinchingbrooke spokesman said: “It would appear the invoice was sent to the wrong place due to an administrative error and we were a bit confused about who had to pay. We are sorry for that.”
A spokesman for the Betsi Cadwalaldr University Health Board said: “It is usual practice for NHS bodies to bill the health board directly when Welsh residents receive NHS care in other parts of the United Kingdom.
The invoice should have been sent straight to the health board and we would have paid it without ever involving the patient.