Patients ‘shopping around’ in EU backed

By staff

The NHS should fund patients who prefer to receive their treatment elsewhere in the EU, a parliamentary committee has concluded.

The Lords’ EU committee’s report came after the European Commission’s proposal for a directive on patients’ rights to cross-border healthcare, which will replace existing ad-hoc arrangements.

A series of European court of justice judgments in the last ten years have established the rights of patients to travel to other member states and a legal framework.

Now peers are proposing the patients’ own healthcare provider pay the fees directly and that this process could be linked with the process of authorisation prior to travel.

Such moves raise a wealth of questions about how the process would be implemented. Redress for dissatisfied patients, providing information for healthcare services abroad and the right of a state to refuse treatment would all have to be considered.

Furthermore, the report states “the impact of the directive will only be clear once it has been implemented”. It recommends a review within three years as a result.

“All EU citizens, not just the wealthy or well informed, must be able to benefit,” Baroness Howarth of Breckland, chairman of the sub-committee on social policy and consumer affairs, commented.

“We therefore recommend that patients should not have to pay for their treatment upfront and that member states should be responsible for informing their citizens of the options open to them for cross-border healthcare.”

She welcomed the broad proposal for a new directive, which would give everyone “the opportunity to seek healthcare abroad”.