Accessing NHS services

NHSOur readers will be aware that the UK government has been keen to reduce the country’s financial deficit, and one way that they want to do this is by charging people who live abroad for using the National Health Service in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have slightly different NHS regimes).

This means that English overseas mission workers will no longer have the right to free NHS hospital treatment when they return to the country on home assignment, although GP services are unaffected.

Global Connections have spearheaded the mission sector’s response to this proposals and you can find a more complete report on this at the Global Connections website.

These measures came into effect on 6th April 2015, and while they may seem draconian, there are exemptions for people who are able to demonstrate that they are ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK.  A tool has been developed to help health authorities determine whether mission workers are in fact ordinarily resident, and you can find a copy of it here which can be used to help you prepare your answers.  In order do as much as you can to be considered ordinarily resident, Syzygy recommends that mission workers:
  • try to arrange with their agency if they have one, or their sponsoring ’employer’ if they don’t, to have a contract which stresses the temporary nature of their overseas assignment;
  • make regular, purposeful visits to England for as long as possible, balancing this with the need to avoid becoming ‘ordinarily resident for tax purposes‘!;
  • if they have children, enrol them in school or playgroup when they visit England;
  • maintain an English postal address and receive meaningful post there (e.g. bank statements);
  • if they own a home in England, have evidence of that with them when they visit.

We also suggest that overseas mission workers consider taking out health insurance to cover their visit to England in case they are denied free NHS care, as they will be charged 150% of the cost of any treatment they receive.  Our friends at Oscar have done some research and provided a list of insurers who may be willing to cover you for the cost of treatment.

In a second phase of ‘cost recovery’, the government is planning to extend charges to non-residents to other areas of the NHS in England.  The latest update from Global Connections can be read here.