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Games family 'exempt' from NHS fees

Foreign athletes and officials involved in the Commonwealth Games will be exempt from paying NHS charges during their visit, according to Government measures.

Glasgow hosts the 2014 Commonwealth Games, which runs from July 23 until August 3, with hundreds of competitors and officials expected to visit the Scottish city.

Public health minister Jane Ellison has signed-off regulations laid before Parliament to drop the charges for the Commonwealth Games Family - meaning those who are taking part or are involved - who need treatment in the United Kingdom from July 7 until August 7.

Similar measures were brought in ahead of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, which applied to, among others, athletes, people officiating at the Games and journalists.

Overseas visitors usually may be charged by an NHS hospital for some treatments and, depending on how urgent it is, will have to pay in advance, according to NHS guidelines.

They add that a future immigration application may be effected if a charge is not paid.

Free services or treatments offered to overseas visitors include help for most infectious diseases, including sexual transmitted infections.

A note explaining the statutory instrument laid by Ms Ellison, which comes into force on July 7, states: "Regulation two of these regulations amends the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2011 to provide for an exemption from charging for individuals who are part of the Commonwealth Games Family during the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014.

"The exemption applies to services the need for which arises during the individual's visit to the United Kingdom and is limited to the period starting July 7 2014 and ending August 7 2014 (inclusive)."

There are 53 member countries of the Commonwealth including India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia, Malta and Cyprus.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday announced financial incentives were to be used to encourage NHS trusts to report treatment of EU nationals, as part of a drive to recoup up to £500 million a year from overseas patients.

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