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New rights for patients to seek healthcare abroad

January 19, 2011 10:56 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Members of the European Parliament have today paved the way for new European rules allowing people to receive medical treatment in other EU Member States. The new rules would mean that if a patient's home country is unable to provide essential medical care within a reasonable timeframe the patient would be allowed to have their treatment in another Member State, fully paid for or with the ability claim back the money spent.

Currently, UK citizens who fall ill abroad can already access emergency care across the EU with their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The new scheme is designed to help in cases where a particular treatment can be provided faster or more expertly abroad or where the nearest hospital, or specialist clinic is in a neighbouring country.

Bill Newton Dunn, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Midlands, said,

"The new rules provide a coherent and clear legislative framework for UK patients seeking treatment in another EU Member State and are a real milestone for cross-border healthcare in Europe.

"Alongside this, I think we have found the right balance between protecting national health systems and strengthening patients' rights.

"NHS doctors will still have to give prior authorisation for treatments abroad that can be reimbursed. There will be clear rules and guidelines for doctors, and decisions must be taken on a case-by-case basis.

"Importantly, the new rules are not designed to encourage health tourism. Patients are only entitled to reimbursement for treatment that their home health authority would normally provide. Travel or hotel costs cannot be claimed back.

"Furthermore, patients from other Member States travelling to the UK specifically for healthcare will have to pay the full NHS cost of treatment."

The new cross-border health care legislation will now have to be transposed into national legislation. The new rules could be in place as early as 2013.