Those seeking NHS treatment at hospitals could be forced to show their passports before being granted care as part of a bid to crack down on foreign visitors, a senior official has said.
The government’s department of health is examining whether patients should have to show two forms of ID to get some elements of NHS care, saying this was “controversial” but already happening in some places.
Chris Wormald, the most senior civil servant at the department, said in a hearing at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the NHS has a “lot further to go” when it comes to reclaiming money from foreign visitors.
Wormald admitted that there were challenges in the identification of people who should be charged for elements of NHS care.
Some trusts are trialling asking patients to bring ID before getting some elements of care, he said.
He said the department was looking into whether more trusts should go down that route.
“We have some trusts that are looking at asking for two forms of ID before treatment,” Mr Wormald said.
“Now that is obviously quite a controversial thing to do but in terms of ‘how do you get those numbers up’, those are the kinds of things we want to look at.
“We don’t have evaluated results of those yet, but what those trusts are reporting is that does lead to an increase in identification.”
He added: “We are looking… at whether trusts should do more on upfront identification.
Tim Farron the leader of the Liberal Democrats said: “This is the latest in a long line of worrying proposals which sound like the government are trying to turn every public servant into an immigration officer – it has to stop.
“This sounds like an attempt to bring in compulsory ID cards by the back door. If you have to have an up-to-date passport and you need to carry it everywhere in case you fall ill, then the government are essentially introducing the illiberal ID cards which Liberal Democrats opposed so strongly in the New Labour years”.