Migrants will not be charged for most drug and alcohol services, government clarifies

Updated government guidance on implementing health charging regulations for overseas visitors has clarified the position on drug and alcohol services. These can be considered the equivalent of primary medical services, says the revised Department of Health and Social Care document, which means that they are exempt from any charges to foreign nationals.

The guidance states that pharmacotherapy and behavioural support – which covers most drug and alcohol treatment – can be regarded as primary medical services. ‘It is important to note that some services provided in the community will be “equivalent” to primary medical services and so do not attract a charge for any overseas visitor,’ says the updated document. ‘Examples are services provided by school nurses and health visitors and many drug and alcohol treatment services.’ Previous versions had been unclear on which services were considered equivalent. Inpatient care, however – which includes residential rehab – is not considered a primary medical service and will therefore not be available without charge.

‘This is a significant positive change in government guidance which Blenheim welcomes,’ said Blenheim CEO John Jolly. ‘Along with other organisations in the sector Blenheim has been seeking urgent clarification of the position of foreign nationals for some time. The change will enable drug and alcohol services to provide treatment to anyone who needs it, irrespective of who they are and where they come from. The changes also remove the uncertainty for EU nationals in treatment as we approach Brexit. Making equal access to treatment and the opportunity for change possible is so important to us at Blenheim where we advocate that the opportunity to change is a right, not a privilege.’

Guidance on implementing the overseas visitor charging regulations here