On December 31 2013 the government published its response to the 2013 public consultation on migrant access and financial contribution to National Health Service (NHS) provision in England.

The anticipated health surcharge for temporary migrants will be introduced, subject to the government carrying out further investigations into exemptions. It is expected to be introduced by April 2015. The surcharge will apply to all migrants entering the United Kingdom on a visa for either work or study. An annual levy of £150 will apply to students and £200 for other non-European Economic Area temporary migrants. The initial charge will be collected at the visa application stage, but how subsequent annual payments will be collected remains to be decided. The charges will continue to apply until the migrant has obtained indefinite leave to remain, which is in line with eligibility for other welfare benefits.

Having paid the surcharge, migrants will continue to have full access to all NHS services.

Those exempt from the surcharge include migrants resident in the United Kingdom on humanitarian grounds, victims of domestic violence, asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking and other vulnerable groups. Some migrants may also be exempt if suitable reciprocal arrangements are in place in their country for UK nationals to receive free healthcare services, but the government is investigating this before passing the relevant legislation.

There are also changes with regard to the charges for which visitors will be liable. At present, visitors are entitled to free accident and emergency (A&E) treatment, but from April 2015 charges will be in place for visitors using A&E departments. Visitors will be expected to have suitable medical insurance in place to cover the cost of NHS care while in the United Kingdom.

Many expatriates are presently liable for NHS charges for any treatment that they receive while a visitor in the United Kingdom. However, the government is undertaking further analysis in this area before confirming the details of any proposed new eligibility rules.

Free access to general practitioner (GP) consultations for all will be retained, but GPs will be expected to participate in a new registration and chargeability administration linked to a person's NHS number and patient record.

For further information on this topic please contact Ilda De Sousa at Kingsley Napley by telephone (+44 20 7814 1200), fax (+44 20 7490 2288) or email (idesousa@kingsleynapley.co.uk). The Kingsley Napley website can be accessed at www.kingsleynapley.co.uk.