NHS Waiting Lists Can be Avoided – New Guide to Treatment in Europe Will Help Patients Bypass Lengthy Waiting Lists
With today’s news reports raising concerns about rising waiting lists, the ratification of an EU Directive may help relieve pressure on an increasingly overburdened NHS. Few patients know that they have a right, in certain circumstances, to seek treatment in other European states and for the cost of treatment to be reimbursed by the NHS.
The new EU directive allows patients to travel within Europe for medical treatment. With today’s news reports raising concerns about rising waiting lists, the ratification of the Directive may help relieve pressure on an increasingly overburdened NHS. Few patients know that they have a right, in certain circumstances, to seek treatment in other European states and for the cost of treatment to be reimbursed by the NHS. And even fewer know how to go about exercising their right to treatment elsewhere within the EU.
“Your Rights to Treatment in Europe – a UK patient’s guide to the European Directive on Cross Border Healthcare” has been launched by Treatment Abroad, the leading online portal for medical travel and medical tourism. The guide will help patients understand what their rights are, what they are entitled to and how to go about exercising their rights. It is aimed at clearing up any confusion patients may have about their rights to travel for treatment elsewhere within the EU.
The 32 page guide is free to download as a PDF file from www.treatmentabroad.com/eu.
EU citizens have always had the right to travel within Europe for healthcare; the new Directive puts a formal framework around various judgements made by the European Court of Justice. Few people know that that provided they meet certain criteria the NHS will reimburse the costs of the treatment (but not travel expenses) up to the NHS cost for that treatment.
Treatment Abroad is the largest online resource for patients seeking information about traveling abroad for medical treatment. The team at Treatment Abroad consulted and worked closely with the EU & International Cross Border Health & Competition Policy Team at the UK Department of Health when compiling the “Your Rights to Treatment In Europe” guide to ensure the guide’s accuracy.
Keith Pollard, Managing Director of Intuition Communication Ltd, publishers of the Guide says: “We felt it was important to publish this guide because while UK Citizens have always had the right to cross border healthcare within the European Union very few are aware of their rights. As NHS patients they can choose and access health care in other EU states, reimbursed by the NHS. The guide gives clear information and advice that will help patients understand what they are entitled to under the framework of the new EU Directive.”
Examples of the EU Directive in action
The following examples are taken from the guide and illustrate how patients can exercise their rights.
The new Directive on cross border healthcare means that exercising your rights should now be simpler and more straightforward. You should have a much clearer idea of what you are entitled to, and what restrictions your own country can put on these rights. It is important to realize that the new Directive does not give European Union citizens any new rights to cross border healthcare. These rights already existed as part of the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties. In essence, you are entitled to obtain healthcare services in any EU state, as long as you are entitled to the same services in your own country, and as long as you are not able to obtain such services within a reasonable amount of time at home.
Mr G developed carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand, and was put on a waiting list in his local primary care trust. He expected to receive surgical treatment within 18 weeks, but various delays and an administrative error meant that he still did not have a definite date for his surgery 5 months later and his condition had worsened to such an extent that he was now on long-term sick leave. He found a hospital in the Netherlands willing to do the surgery within 10 days and applied for authorisation to under the Directive route. His treatment was authorized because he had experienced an “undue delay‟ according to the judgement of his GP.
Under the Directive, if your health service refuses to fund you treatment in another state, or if another state refuses to accept you for treatment, you must be given a full explanation as to why. The circumstances under which such refusals are allowed are clearly set out in the Directive.
Mr S has been on the NHS waiting list for a hip replacement operation for osteoarthritis for 8 months. His condition worsens after he slips at home, dislocating his hip. Emergency treatment restores his joint, but he is in agony afterwards, needing prescribed painkillers. His GP refers him for an urgent appointment with his orthopaedic surgeon, who says Mr S needs a hip replacement within 4 weeks. The local primary care trust cannot organize the surgery within this time, but they are prepared to reimburse his treatment in Hungary, as a hospital there is prepared to conduct the surgery in two weeks‟ time. The estimated cost of the hip replacement is £2,000 less than the cost of the surgery done within the NHS but the primary care trust will only pay the cost of the Hungarian treatment, no more. Mr S is disappointed as he planned to use the difference to pay his travel expenses, but the rules of the Directive are clear on this point and he reluctantly accepts he will have to pay his air fare and hotel bills himself.
“Your Rights to Treatment in Europe – a UK patient’s guide to the European Directive on Cross Border Healthcare” is free to download as a PDF file from www.treatmentabroad.com/eu.
For further information, interviews or a printed copy of the guide please contact: Caroline Ratner, email@example.com or 020 8209 0120
Notes to Editors
The EU Directive on the application of patients’ rights cross border healthcare which became law in March 2011 has established a framework within which cross border healthcare will operate and to set the rules regarding how patients will access care and what kind of treatment they are entitled to outside of their own country.
The Directive became EU law in April 2011 and must be implemented by all states within 30 months – so that’s by October 2013.
BBC news report http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-14034835
Guardian newspaper http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/06/nhs-waiting-times-lansley-cuts
Independent newspaper http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/spending-cuts-will-mean-longer-waiting-times-say-nhs-managers-2307537.html
Intuition Communication (www.intuition-communication.co.uk) is the publisher of some of the UK’s most visited healthcare information sites including:
· www.treatmentabroad.com - the UK's leading guide to health and medical tourism, covering over 30 destinations worldwide.
· www.imtj.com – the leading business to business journal for the medical travel sector.
· www.doctorinternet.info – a health information website published in English and Arabic aimed at the Arabic medical tourism market
· www.privatehealthcare.co.uk is the UK’s leading online gateway to information about all aspects of private healthcare options in the UK.
· www.harleystreetguide.com - provides comprehensive information about this world famous area of medical excellence.
· www.self-help.org.uk - a searchable database of over 1,000 self help organisations and support groups across the UK.
· www.canceradvice.co.uk – an online resource for cancer patients, their relatives and carers.
A full list of sites can be found at: http://www.intuition-communication.co.uk/what-we-do/