NHS charging regime: new provisions extend the obligation to charge for services

Provisions of the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (“the Regulations”) came into force on 21 August 2017, with further provisions coming into force on Monday 23 October 2017.


The Regulations aim to extend the obligation to charge for NHS funded services provided to overseas visitors not ordinarily resident in the UK. In particular, the Regulations require organisations to establish upfront whether patients are eligible for free treatment, then to take upfront payment for the full estimated cost of treatment (unless this would prevent or delay urgent treatment).

From 23 October, the scope of the organisations responsible for implementing the charging rules will be extended to include non-NHS providers of NHS-funded secondary care, which could include private hospitals working on behalf of the NHS. Previously, only NHS trusts, NHS foundation trusts and local authorities exercising public health functions were captured by the charging rules.

Specified palliative care services and the NHS 111 telephone advice line are exempt from charge, and emergency treatment and treatment at GP surgeries remains free for all.

The principal guidance to assist frontline staff in implementing the charging regime has been updated to reflect the provisions of the new Regulations and can be found here.

The policy reasoning behind the Regulations is to bring in additional income for the NHS, thereby easing financial pressures on the NHS and ensuring its long-term sustainability. In addition to the “Immigration Health Surcharge” that must be paid by specified people applying for immigration status in the UK, the new provisions form part of the “hostile environment” which seeks to deter illegal migrants from entering or remaining in the UK.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, please contact Chetal Patel, a Senior Associate in the Immigration Department. 

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of October 19, 2017.