Ireland: cross border healthcare resumes

Over 700 Northern Ireland patients have been treated in the Republic of Ireland in the first three months of a new cross-border deal. Hundreds of Irish patients have also gone to Northern Ireland.

724 Northern Ireland patients have been for treatment in the Republic of Ireland in the first three months of a scheme to reimburse Northern Ireland patients for treatment in the Republic, with more than £130,000 paid out in the same period that began on  1 July this year.

Previously, patients on UK waiting lists could get treatment in the Republic, under the EU Cross-Border Health Directive. This ended when the UK left the EU.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Robin Swann opened the Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme as a temporary replacement. The Scheme sets out a framework, based on the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive that allows patients to seek and pay for treatment in the private sector in Ireland and have the costs reimbursed by the Health and Social Care Board. Costs will be reimbursed up to the cost of the treatment in Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. The Health and Social Care Board manage the scheme and all treatment is subject to prior authorisation.

The scheme is a temporary measure for a 12 month period to help reduce Northern Ireland waiting lists and will be subject to strict criteria. Reinstating a limited version of the cross-border healthcare directive to Ireland will not have a dramatic impact on the overall waiting lists, but it will provide an opportunity for some to have their treatment much earlier.

The following treatments and care are not available under the Scheme:

  • Long term care that provides assistance with routine tasks.
  • Access to and allocation of organs (for transplantation).
  • Public vaccination programmes against infectious diseases.

The Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme is a new scheme to allow Irish patients to get healthcare in Northern Ireland. It began on 1 January 2021 and will be available until 31 December 2021.

Patients access the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme in a similar way to how they access the EU Cross Border Directive.

UK/ROI legislation means that patients have the right to receive medical treatment in Northern Ireland and avoid the HSE waiting list. The HSE will pay the bill.

The Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme treatment is only available to Irish residents who qualify for public health care, not private patients in Ireland.

Having private health insurance does not exclude people from the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme, but they cannot use private health insurance to access any referral for healthcare abroad. Only a GP or a consultant in a public capacity can refer for Cross Border treatment. Patients cannot use telemedicine, for example an outpatient consultation abroad by Skype or video, at any time during the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme process.

There is no list of specific treatments under the Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme. If the treatment is available publicly in Ireland, patients can be referred for the same treatment abroad, except for:

  • Organ transplants.
  • Any long-term care that helps people do everyday tasks such as nursing home care.
  • Vaccination against infectious diseases.
  • Clinical trials.
  • Drug therapies that aren’t currently provided publicly in Ireland.

The cross-border health scheme is open to any person who would be entitled to treatment in an Irish hospital.