Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wrongly paid by the UK governments to the Irish health service, it is being claimed.
The UK has a long-standing agreement with Ireland that funds health treatment for around 50,000 Irish pensioners who had previously worked and paid tax and national insurance contributions in the UK.
But according to the Conservatives, the process is so ‘shambolic’ that the NHS has been paying up to £180m (200 million euros) a year too much.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said he suspected the overpayments could be up to £683m (750 million euros) from a total bill of £1.8 billion (2 billion euros) over the past five years.
He said that ministers are trying to conceal the full extent of the overpayments, and has demanded a parliamentary inquiry. The Department of Health said the two governments are discussing the matter.
It came to light when Irish health minister Mary Harney revealed that the UK ‘reckoned they had paid us £150 million more than they should have’ in 2007 - and now wants the money back.