EU impact on UK health services
Patients' rights to cross-border care to become UK law by 2013
The European Commission issued a legislative proposal on 2 July 2008 aimed at clarifying and extending the rights of patients to access health care in other European Union (EU) countries. The proposal covered three main areas:
- common principles in all EU health systems
- a specific framework for cross-border care
- European co-operation on health services.
The RCN's policy briefing on the proposed EU Directive on cross-border care (PDF 54KB) [how to access PDF files] describes what was in the proposal and our detailed comments are available in RCN comments on the EU proposal on patients' rights to cross border care (PDF 53KB) [see how to access PDF files].
The legislation was agreed at European level in March 2011 and needs to be implemented in the UK by October 2013. The RCN has produced a position statement (PDF 142.3 KB) [see how to access PDF files] on the directive, which explores the background and implications of the legislation. It states the RCN’s position and how the directives’ provisions should be applied to ensure better patient care.
The agreed EU legislation clarifies patients’ rights to seek health care in another European country and either have the costs reimbursed by the NHS or paid directly to the provider. It outlines when patients would need to get prior authorisation, what information member states should provide and confirms that reimbursement would only be to the level of costs for similar care in the NHS.
The final directive "encourages" co-operation between EU countries on the use of e-health, health technology assessment, rare diseases and recognition of prescriptions, rather than making it mandatory, as the Commission had originally wanted.