Jeremy Hunt
The Department of Health plans to launch the pilot scheme across 10 areas later this year (Reuters)

British patients will have to prove their nationality when they register with a GP as part of a new campaign to crackdown on health tourism.

The Department of Health (DoH) plans to launch the pilot scheme across 10 areas later this year.

The ministry hopes that the move will enable the government to recover the costs of primary care for migrants from their home countries.

"We are absolutely committed to improving the way the NHS recovers costs from international visitors for primary care," a DoH spokesperson said.

"We're now planning to pilot different ways of doing this effectively without burdening busy GPs."

Everyone enrolling at the practices in the pilot areas will be asked to provide a valid European Health Insurance Card, Pulse magazine reported.

Only UK residents with 'indefinite leave to remain' are entitled to free healthcare, but it is estimated that health tourism to the UK costs the Treasury £2bn ($3bn, €2.6bn) each year.

Dr Kailash Chand, British Medical Association (BMA) deputy chair, has previously said that Jeremy Hunt should concentrate on the major pressures on the NHS, rather than health tourism.

'The health secretary would be wise to concentrate on the major pressures on the NHS rather than being distracted by imposing an unworkable system of charging for health tourism, Chand said.

He criticised Hunt's 2013 proposals to charge short-term visitors using the NHS.

"If this plan comes to fruition it will at best reduce the role of doctors to debt collectors," he added.

"At worst it will deter them from registering migrants and asylum seekers as well as setting up a new system of charging that could be extended to others.

"Tampering with the core principle of the NHS, that it is free at the point of delivery, runs the risk of loading scarce resources on a minority issue, while the more meaty challenges."