Europe-wide rules for medical treatment abroad

Medical treatment abroad

07.09.2006

The European Commission has demanded clear Europe-wide rules for patients seeking treatment abroad. EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou claims the right to shop around across the member states must apply to all consumer services, including healthcare, but notes there must be "legal certainty" to ensure safe, high-quality and efficient medical services.

Cosmetic surgery abroad

In response to rise in healthcare "tourism", particularly in the field of cosmetic surgery, the Commission has launched a "consultation" asking health authorities and patient organisations to submit views before drawing up formal proposals next year.

Patients® needs can sometimes be best provided for in another EU country, as evidenced by the case of British woman, Yvonne Watts, who had a hip operation in France paid for by the NHS because of "undue delay" getting treatment at home.

And although the European Court of Justice has ruled that patients have rights to cross-border care under Community law, there are uncertainties about what this means in practice.

A clear, practical framework will help to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of all EU health systems, whilst respecting national responsibility for their organisation and financing.

The new proposals next year are likely to cover:

  • The conditions under which healthcare in another EU country must be authorised and paid for.
  • Which health authority is responsible for supervising cross-border healthcare in different circumstances, and ensuring continuity of care.
  • Who is responsible for any negligence or injury caused in cross-border treatment, and who pays compensation.
  • Who pays the extra cost if identical treatment abroad is more expensive.

Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson described the Commission plan as "a first step towards a truly European health structure. Rather than suffering patiently in national queues, all Europeans should be able to seek out alternatives wherever in Europe they can be found, and wherever they can find the best treatment."

If you have been affected by negligent cosmetic surgery you might be entitled to claim compensation. See our Cosmetic Surgery Claims page for more information.