The EU proposal for a directive on patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare (to be announced on 2 July) provides an added stimulus to the already growing number of medical tourists who seek hospital treatment elsewhere in the European Union.
The directive will create a formal framework and remove obstacles for UK patients wishing to travel for treatment in other EU countries. In some circumstances, patients will be able to travel to other EU countries for treatment and will be able to reclaim the cost of treatment from the NHS.
Patients will have to pay their travel and accommodation costs, plus any top-up fees if charges in the foreign hospitals are higher than the NHS cost.
The directive proposes the following developments in cross border healthcare:
- A legal framework for the reimbursement of treatment where it takes place elsewhere in the EU.
- Common principles in terms of guaranteeing patient safety and ensuring quality and continuity of care.
- Stimulating greater European cooperation on healthcare including the establishment of “European Reference Networks” which would create a concentration of expertise, training and resources for specific diseases and health issues.
- Establishment of a European network for the assessment of new medical technology.
- Establishment of standards for e-health, in particular the transfer of patient information and treatment records between member states.
Keith Pollard of Treatment Abroad says: “This directive is the first step to creating a truly European market in healthcare; it could revolutionise the way we experience healthcare in this country and throughout the rest of Europe.
“It’s very good news for the fast-developing medical tourism industry. The directive will take the concept of patient choice to a new level.”