• Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children owed £45.9m for international private patient work
  • Chief executive visits representatives of foreign government to speed payment
  • GOSH records IPP income of £62.3m for 2018-19

A specialist trust is owed £45.9m by international private patients, HSJ can reveal.

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children Foundation Trust billed international private patients a record £62.3m in 2018-19. This was 9.1 per cent higher than last year, but doubts are growing over how much of this will actually be paid.

Despite these problems, the trust also revealed ambitious international expansion plans, including “marketing road-shows” in China, Russia and India.

Securing payments from overseas patients is an ongoing problem for the trust. It had to take legal action against Libya for unpaid debt in 2017.

The latest figures reveal the age of the total debt was more than double that forecast. As of May this year the trust had planned on recovering enough IPP to keep its debtor days (the average number of days required for a company to receive payment) to 120, but a report to the board showed it had reached 243.

GOSH said it had not written off any debt in 2018-19, but the trust’s risk register said the organisation was undertaking a “systematic review of old debt to assess likelihood of collection and preparation of write-off schedules for audit committee approval”.

A large proportion of the trust’s IPP work comes through embassies based in London and chief executive Matthew Shaw has visited the representatives of one country to discuss what they owed. The trust would not say which country this was, but a spokeswoman said “since the meeting attended by Mr Shaw and through the support of governmental bodies, debt with the specific country has reduced significantly”.

The Libyan debt is in the hands of the trust’s external debt collection agency.

GOSH plans to increase IPP income by 10 per cent this year and another 10 per cent in 2020-21. It has already opened 10 extra beds for this work and aims to add another 10.

The trust is exploring new avenues of international private income, including providing direct patient care to a Middle Eastern nation. The trust is also planning clinician-to-clinician “marketing road shows” in China, Russia and India.

GOSH has developed a “referral app” in English and Arabic to “increase brand awareness”. The app now works in Chinese and the trust is pushing it on Chinese social networking sites Weibo and WeChat.

In a statement to HSJ Mr Shaw said: “Along with many other specialist UK hospitals, for a number of years we have sought to grow our international private patient work. This is for a number of reasons: to enhance our ability to conduct research in rare and complex diseases; to share skills and learn from other approaches; and to ensure diversity of income. Delivering excellence for our patients and their families in a climate of budgetary constraint is challenging. The income derived from our IPP work is one way we support our services to improve and be as excellent as they can be.”