Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the Health Service Executive spent €4.9million (US$4.84m) on the Northern Ireland planned healthcare scheme (NIPHS) in the first half of 2022, along with just over €2million (US$1.97m) on the EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive in the same period.
The EU directive allows people to access healthcare in another European state and apply for a refund of the cost. The NIPHS allows people to access private healthcare in the North and apply to be refunded the cost.
HSE documents show that almost 2,000 outpatient and day case appointments were reimbursed under the scheme between January and the end of June this year, along with 280 inpatient procedures.
2,500 outpatient and day case appointments, along with 380 inpatient procedures, were reimbursed under the NIPHS in the same period.
Reliance on both the cross-border directive and NIPHS illustrates the need for an all-island approach to healthcare. The Department of Health acknowledges that waiting lists for elective procedures nationwide are “unacceptably long”. Waiting lists were long and increasing before the COVID pandemic.