A damning report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee suggests that the NHS has failed to recover sufficient levels of cash from overseas patients.
MPs have dubbed the existing system as nothing short of chaotic.
And following the publication of the report, the parliament is no longer confident that the Department of Health is able to take effective action in order to recover money in the future.
It is common for overseas patients treated by the NHS to leave the country without having paid their medical bills.
Yet not only is the healthcare system failing to clamp down on this conduct, the Public Accounts Committee also believes that the NHS is struggling to satisfactorily identify those patients who should indeed be charged.
While reciprocal arrangements within the Eurozone should make this process more convenient, the government has simply failed in its aim of recouping money from major European nations.
For example, in 2014/15, the UK recovered only £50 million from these countries, but paid out £675 million.
This must be considered a rather paltry sum, with the government having targeted around £500 million annually from overseas patients by 2017/18.
Last year, the government was able to charge such individuals nearly £290 million, although not all of this will ultimately be recovered.
Evidence indicates that only approximately 50% of the money charged is ultimately paid back.
Legislation to recover money from overseas patient was first introduced in 1982, but the Department of Health conceded to the committee that very little had been done in order to advance this process.
NHS hospitals are now being given “financial incentives” to do more to recover costs.
Commenting on the issue, Meg Hillier, Labour and Co-operative MP and chairwoman of PAC, suggested that the government had failed to address this issue satisfactorily and that this was having a detrimental impact on the NHS.
“The Government’s failure to get a grip on recovering the costs of treating overseas visitors is depriving the NHS of vital funds. Our committee has reported extensively on the financial pressures facing the health service and it is simply unacceptable that so much money owed should continue to go uncollected. This is a problem for the health service as a whole and work to put it right must be driven by central government.”
Hillier also suggested that there is little hope of the £500 million target being met.
“We are concerned that financial progress to date does not reflect meaningful progress with implementing the rules and the Department for Health and NHS have much to do if they are to meet their target for cost recovery.”