Islanders with UK pensions 'not warned' about health charges

Nurse with patients Image copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

UK state pension holders in Guernsey may be unaware they can no longer receive free hospital care in England, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) says.

The Department of Health scrapped the rule as part of efforts to recoup £500m a year. It says information about the changes was released in July 2014.

But the Guernsey Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said Guernsey States had been left in the dark over the news.

The rule affecting islanders and their families was introduced on 6 April.

Kate Raleigh from the CAB said: "The greatest concern is that the change in exemptions appears to have happened without Guernsey States being aware."

"My guess is there are hundreds of people affected, they only need to have worked in the UK for ten consecutive years."

Image caption The Guernsey Citizens Advice Bureau believes hundreds of people could be affected by the changes

Richard Evans from Guernsey's Health and Social Services department (HSSD) said: "HSSD always recommends that any Guernsey residents travelling overseas should obtain relevant information and advice about the cost to them of medical services in their destination country.

"Appropriate travel insurance should be sought and obtained regardless of whether there is a reciprocal health agreement in place with that country."

Guernsey's reciprocal health agreement with the UK ended in April 2009 but unlike Jersey and the Isle of Man has not signed a new agreement with the country.

The Department of Health said: "UK state pensioners who live outside the European Economic Area (including Guernsey) will be chargeable for most hospital treatment on visits to the UK.

"Those who resume ordinary residence in the UK are entitled to free NHS care again from arrival."

Some UK visitors from outside the EU who receive treatment in NHS hospitals in England are now being charged 150% of the cost under changes brought in to discourage "health tourism".

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