11 June 2015
New NHS charges hit missionaries
Global Connections, a mission network working closely with the Alliance, has raised concerns about new NHS charges that will prevent missionaries receiving free healthcare.
The charges, which are due to come into force later this year, mean that missionaries returning to the UK for healthcare could face secondary healthcare costs.
Martin Lee, executive director at Global Connections, warned: "It is vitally important that churches and mission agencies are aware of the implications of these changes for their mission partners overseas - this must not be allowed to take anyone by surprise. We must not let a potential increase in costs dampen our enthusiasm or undermine the desire to take the Christian message overseas."
The charges would mean that after a patient has been admitted to hospital or requires secondary care they would have to pay additional costs. A normal birth could cost £1,500 and a simple heart bypass £7,000.
Until now, 6,000 British missionaries working overseas, have been exempt from NHS charges and have enjoyed free access to NHS services whenever they returned to the UK. Under the new changes, unless missionaries qualify as 'ordinarily resident' in the UK, they will have to pay what could amount to thousands of pounds.
Martin added: "While we have genuine reasons to believe that many mission partners will meet the 'ordinary residence' criteria, it is clearly evident that others will not – especially those who have been overseas for a considerable period."
In response to the changes, Global Connections has been in discussion with officials from the Department of Health. There is now guidance available for NHS staff on how to apply the regulations to missionaries and volunteers.
Global Connections have produced online advice, help to understand the criteria to qualify as 'ordinarily resident', a set of FAQs, and links to key Government web pages.
They are also making plans for a group medical insurance scheme, to provide reasonably priced cover to protect mission partners from escalating medical fees.
For more information visit:www.globalconnections.org.uk/nhs-update