LONDON, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- British government announced on Monday that visitors and migrants have to pay for some medical services as part of its clampdown on abuse of its National Health Service (NHS), the publicly funded healthcare system.
The Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement: "visitors and migrants who wish to use NHS services will have to pay."
The new changes to be introduced will include extending charging for primary care services, such as prescriptions.
However, GP and nurse consultations will remain free, which will mean that everyone will continue to have initial access to prevent risks to public health such as HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections.
Meanwhile, the government is considering of charging other types of primary care services such as minor surgery that is carried out by a GP and physiotherapy that has been referred through a GP.
It also plans to introduce a new system for identifying and recording patients who should be charged for NHS services.
The announcement is made based on a DOH study which estimated that up to 500 million pounds (688 million U.S. dollars) could be recovered from overseas visitors' and migrants' use of the NHS every year through better charging.
It said many changes will start to be introduced over the coming year and further detail on the timing for implementation will be available in March 2014.
Health Minister Lord Howe said: "Having a universal health service free at the point of use rightly makes us the envy of the world, but we must make sure the system is fair to the hardworking British taxpayers who fund it.
"We know that we need to make changes across the NHS to better identify and charge visitors and migrants. Introducing charging at primary care is the first step to achieving this.
"We are already looking at taking action and next year we will set out our detailed plans to clamp down on the abuse of our NHS."
Another study found that the existing system failed to identify chargeable patients and recover the cost. It listed some examples including family members of British residents from abroad, registering with a GP and then receiving NHS drugs and hospital care; new arrivals on visitor visas seeking immediate or major treatment including maternity services; and visitors who require emergency treatment being unable or unwilling to pay subsequent costs.