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NHS care “may be extended to EU”


19 December, 2007  

Patients in the UK could find it easier to receive medical treatment abroad which is paid for by the NHS under plans being discussed by the European Commission.

The proposals could mean all EU residents can get care in other member states, providing the treatment is allowed in their own country.

The move is partly a response to a legal ruling last year over the case of 75-year-old Yvonne Watts, who paid £3,900 for a hip replacement in France because she did not want to wait a year for an operation in the UK.

The NHS refused to reimburse her, but the judges said she was entitled to shop around because of the “undue delay” in her treatment.

Labour MEP Linda McAvan, a member of the Public Health Committee of the European Parliament, said: “For many years, individual people have been going to the European Court of Justice to establish their rights to treatment in another country.

“Legislation in this area will be helpful if it provides clarity to the
public about the rules which apply when seeking treatment abroad and if it helps health systems to manage requests for treatment in other EU countries.”

The draft proposals could take several years before they become law in Britain.

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