New proposals may increase patient mobility in Europe

European Commission proposals to be released next week will increase patient mobility within the EU and give NHS patients access to hospitals across the Continent; patients in other EU countries will will also have access to NHS hospitals.

The proposals will confirm the ruling of the European Court of Justice on overseas treatment for waiting list patients who are suffering “undue delay”. Yvonne Watts, a British patient who was on a waiting list for hip replacement paid to go to a French hospital for her hip operation; she then went to the European Court of Justice to claim the costs of the operation from the NHS. The Court confirmed the legal right of patients to seek treatment in another EU state, if they have to suffer “undue delay” in their country of residence.

The new proposals could result in a boom in NHS sponsored health tourism. Patients would pay for travel and accommodation costs, but the NHS would foot the bill for the treatment.

Details of the new proposals are expected to be made available this week.