Marshalswick South Focus Team

Councillors, Rod Perks and Allan Witherick working with Andrew Duff MEP and Melvyn Teare for you Learn more

New rights for patients to seek healthcare abroad

by awitherick on 19 January, 2011

Several years ago Marshalswick South Liberal Democrat County Councillor Allan Siao Ming Witherick brought a motion to Hertfordshire County Council which was fighting for a European Patients Charter, supporting the work of our local MEP Andrew Duff.

Now, after four years of hard campaigning by Liberal Democrats and our sister parties across Europe we’ve had a significant step forward. UK citizens who fall ill abroad can already get emergency care across the EU with their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)*. The new scheme expands this to ‘elective treatment’ when a particular treatment can be provided faster or more expertly abroad. But NHS doctors will have to give prior authorisation for treatments abroad that can be reimbursed. Patients will only be entitled to reimbursement for treatment that their home health authority would normally provide, and travel or hotel costs cannot be claimed back.

Councillor Allan Siao Ming Witherick said:

“These new rules represent a real milestone for cross-border healthcare in Europe and support for residents. It keeps the power of maintaining the NHS and other countries health systems in the hands of national governments but gives patients greater choice in their healthcare. The safeguards, such as having NHS doctors pre-approve treatment to take place abroad will also guard against health tourism. Foreign patients coming to the UK will have to pay the full NHS cost of treatment.”

Thanks to European Parliament approval, new European rules are set to be in force by 2013 to allow people to receive medical treatment in other EU Member States if their home country is unable to provide essential medical care within a reasonable timeframe. They will be able to have the treatment paid for or claim back the money if they pay upfront.
*Remember an EHIC is NOT the same as having travel insurance- the NHS don’t fly you home etc

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