Plans to end health queues in EU

A blueprint for health care across the European Union is expected to call for an end to unjustified obstacles for patients who go abroad for treatment.

Plans to end health queues in EU
The European Commission will propose that any EU citizen should be entitled to care elsewhere, if the treatment is allowed in their own state.

But a patient may have to seek prior authorisation for hospital care.

The commission's proposals follow court rulings that patients should be reimbursed for care at home or abroad.

Controversial plans

Because of the controversial nature of the plans, the commission has spent months drafting and re-drafting them, but will still face opposition from a number of countries.

In the UK, some Labour MPs fear the proposals will lead to an internal market for health and ultimately to the demise of the publicly-funded National Health Service (NHS).

The Department of Health has already made it clear that the commission's draft directive will be subject to change during negotiations.

A spokesman said: "We think it is critical that the legislative framework ensures that the NHS retains the ability to decide what care it will fund to meet the needs of individual patients."

Spain and Germany are also likely to oppose some of the plans.

Prior authorisation

Anticipating a frosty reception, the commission is likely to propose giving member states prior authorisation of reimbursement for a hospital stay abroad.

For that to happen, a country would have to provide evidence that the number of patients seeking hospital care abroad would affect the planning of their home country's hospital sector.

The commission spells out that anyone who cannot have "appropriate care" for their condition in their own country "without undue delay, will be authorised to go abroad, and any additional costs of treatment will be covered by public funds".

Non-hospital treatment would not require prior agreement.

Hospital compensation

There are also measures to help patients who suffer harm from treatment abroad.

Earlier this year, the European Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, spoke of a patient who had claimed 100,000 euros (£71,000) in compensation, when the hospital itself was worth only twice that amount.

He wants to address that with plans for national contact points to give patients information and assistance if anything goes wrong.

The catalyst for these proposals was a ruling in 2006 on the case of Yvonne Watts, a 75 year-old British woman who paid £3,900 (5,450 euros) for a hip replacement in France because she was not prepared to wait a year for an operation in Britain.

The European Court of Justice decided that patients who were facing an undue delay, in the view of clinicians, should be allowed to seek treatment in other EU states at their own country's cost.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Aralık 2007, 11:35