GP charges for patients from Down Under are below the belt, says Stewart

Loine and Stewart Sweeney, Health Minister Jeane Freeman and Edinburgh.

By Bill Heaney

General practitioners are charging foreign visitors £100 for appointments that are supposed to come free of charge.

Dumbarton man Stewart Sweeney has claimed this is “a rip off”, not just because it breaches the agreements in place between the Scottish and Australian governments.

But because the amount being charged by these greedy doctors is about quarter of Scottish average weekly earnings.

Stewart, who suffered a serious illness from which he recovered some years ago, is in Scotland with his wife, Loine, a TV journalist.

They are taking in the sights which in Edinburgh include the Festival and the Fringe and have plans to spend time in Dumbarton before going home to Adelaide.

He said: “It is disappointing to find that primary care general practitioners in Edinburgh appear to have a business model that has them charging visitors from Australia and presumably other non EU visitors over £100 for a ‘private’ appointment.

“This is despite the fact that there is an agreement between the Australian, UK and Scottish governments for the provision of free primary and other health care.

“I took the trouble to contact NHS Inform about this matter and their advice on the one hand was that my treatment should indeed be free under the government to government agreement and on the other hand that there was an Edinburgh reality.

“This came about as a consequence of the number of visitors to Scotland at this time of year and that the opportunity was being taken to make some extra money via the private patient route.

“In contrast on a visit to Scotland last year I was provided with free primary health care at the excellent Dumbarton medical centre.

“This is all particularly galling as one of the features of Scotland and the UK that we enthuse about to friends in Australia and elsewhere is the free primary health care central to the NHS since its foundation 70 years ago. So here I am a ‘private’ patient in Scotland. It makes me sick.”

Australian Jeannie Daniels said: “Stewart, this is rather sad to hear. As a British national, but having lived in Adelaide most of my life (although now back in Scotland), I wasn’t even aware of this agreement.

“The agreement would be with the British NHS rather than that area of the NHS devolved to the Scottish parliament, methinks, but it’s a tricky one.

“You could – and I think you should formally – complain to the Scottish government. but I have a feeling they’d have to direct your concern southwards. (Jeane Freeman, Cabinet Secretary, has overall responsibility for the Scottish NHS).

“If there’s an agreement, as you say, it must be adhered to. Even by wealthy GPs in Edinburgh.”

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