In the first year of the new rules on EU cross-border healthcare, out of the 855 patients seeking to get the NHS to pay for their operation in Europe, only 620 were successful.
The NHS has been reluctant to release any figures, and it is only due to the tenacity of a British medical tourism agency in persevering with a freedom of information request, that we have any information at all.
According to figures revealed by the Department of Work and Pensions, 855 patients in England submitted claims so far under the EU Directive. Of these, 621 have been successful and between them they have reclaimed a total of £833,491 – an average of £1,342 per claim. This does include any travel or accommodation costs, as the NHS does not pay these.
The EU Directive on Cross-Border Healthcare, introduced on 25 October 2013, in theory gives UK patients the right to receive treatment anywhere in Europe. So patients waiting for treatment can choose to have an operation at a private hospital in Europe and reclaim the cost, provided the treatment is medically necessary, would cost no more than it would in an NHS hospital, and they can show reasons other than price for going overseas. The process is complex and frustrating,
The DWP figures show that France, Germany and Poland were the most popular countries for operations. The lowest cost for a hip replacement was £4,153 carried out in the Czech Republic, and the lowest cost for a knee replacement was £2,756 in France.
Ruth Taylor of Operations Abroad Worldwide says: “The EU Directive makes treatment in Europe a more attractive option. For those who are on NHS waiting lists and considering private treatment, having their operation in Europe means they benefit from prompt treatment and may be able to claim back their medical costs, although they will have to cover their own travel expenses.”