THE trust which runs Airedale Hospital is trying to recoup nearly £60,000 owed by overseas patients, it has been revealed.

The figure, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, covers the last three years.

Since 2015, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has managed to collect £89,055 of £148,801.

But it says some patients have repayment plans in place, which accounts for a portion of the outstanding amount.

A trust spokesman said that when a potential overseas visitor/patient who was not legally resident in the UK was identified, they were referred to the overseas visitors team and their status as ‘chargeable’ or ‘exempt from charges’ was formally established.

Evidence was then requested to support ‘exempt from payment’ patients and if this evidence was not provided, a charge would be levied. Evidence was also requested to support the decision that a charge should be made.

The spokesman added: “We identify and check eligibility for free non-emergency NHS care, request supporting evidence and then invoice the patient where chargeable.

“Actions are being taken to resolve outstanding amounts.”

The Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (BTHFT), which includes the Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital, has recouped only £195,978 out of £833,064 in the last three years.

MP Philip Davies, whose Shipley constituency includes Burley and Menston, described the situation as “deeply concerning”.

He said: “At the end of the day, it’s a National Health Service, not an international health service.”

He said that money was needed for the NHS and that was money which could be spent on people locally.

And James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Barely a day goes past without health bosses pleading poverty and asking for more money yet these are huge sums that are just being written off.

“Obviously those in need of emergency care while in Britain should get it.

“But our free at the point of use health system is far more open to abuse than those of continental Europe.

“The Government has stressed the importance of recouping the money they can from chargeable patients but if this is not happening or if health bosses are not bothering to do it, the Government will have to start penalising those that are failing in their duty to taxpayers.”

A Department of Health spokesman echoed Mr Davies’ views, saying: “The NHS is a national, not an international, health service.

“Hospitals must make sure they charge people for using the NHS if they aren’t eligible for free care, and they are getting better at identifying those people.

“To help the NHS recover even more money, we’ve introduced new laws so that hospitals must charge overseas patients before treatment takes place instead of chasing unpaid bills afterwards.

“We also introduced a requirement for providers to charge overseas visitors upfront and in full for any care not deemed urgent or immediately necessary.

“This means that if someone is chargeable, non-urgent care and treatment will only go ahead if payment is received in advance.”