MSPs have called for changes to the way health boards in Scotland identify people who are not entitled to treatment under the NHS.

In a new report, members of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee said there was a lack of clarity in the charges levied for treatment.

They also found it was currently not necessary for a GP to establish whether or not a patient was eligible for NHS care before treating them.

The findings arose after the committee considered the arrangements for identifying and charging European Economic Area (EEA) and non-EEA individuals when they use NHS services in Scotland.

It identified “a varied and inconsistent approach” across Scotland’s NHS boards, with some not reclaiming costs from those who were not entitled to free care.

MSPs suggested that boards were missing out on “vital sums of money” because they cannot identify those entitled to NHS care

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) has calculated that over the past five years the amount which has not been paid to NHS boards from non-EEA individuals was more than £3.2 million.

Evidence gathered by the committee also indicated that not all health boards were participating in the European health insurance card incentive scheme, whereby NHS boards can reclaim 25% of treatment costs of EHIC card holders.

Following the committee’s work, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has now reclaimed more than £200,000 with further retrospective claims available to them.

Only those people who are not “ordinarily resident” in the UK are charged for using NHS services. However, it is currently not necessary for a GP to establish a person’s country of origin before treating them.

Health and Sport Committee convenor, Lewis Macdonald, said: “The evidence we had gathered in our earlier report into reciprocal healthcare arrangements had raised a number of issues regarding the operation of the current scheme.

“The committee support the principle that anybody in Scotland can access GP services or A&E departments free of charge when needed.

“However, we are concerned that NHS boards are missing out on vital sums of money to which they are due by not being able to identify those entitled to NHS care.

“We believe the Scottish Government should begin a review of the current situation immediately and have asked them to adopt a clearer and more unified approach to ensure access to NHS treatment is applied fairly and consistently.

“Our research has also shown that the prices charged for NHS services to those not entitled to them vary considerably across the country without any justification for the differences in fees being provided.

“This is another issue which NHS boards and the Scottish Government must work to make simpler, clearer and more transparent wherever possible.”

NHS figures last December showed that £5m worth of treatment, relating to 4841 people, had been reported to the Department for Work and Pensions by participating boards since the scheme was set up at the end of 2014.

This had resulted in £1.25m being reimbursed to boards.

The committee estimated that if all Scottish health boards participated in the scheme, the average amount coming back to them could be £710,000 a year.

Paul Gray, the director general for health and social care and chief executive of NHS Scotland, told the committee during its investigation stage that six health boards had not been taking part in the scheme because they indicated that the costs of administering it outweighed the potential income.

Asked why NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had re-joined the scheme, Gray responded: “To be frank, being asked by the committee why boards were not doing so will have prompted some boards to think about it.”