It is quite surprising to note that, despite the fact that the EU Directive on cross-border patient care has been operative since October 2013, there has not been much take up.
A number of commentators have written, published or broadcast messages about this fact, including the BBC, IMTJ (International Medical Travel Journal) and others, describing the take-up as “a trickle” rather than “the expected flood”. It is important to emphasize that EU citizens are allowed to choose where they have their care undertaken and to be paid for by their “home” health service. It needs to be understood that this Directive is not an EU “order”; it merely provides a framework to establish common ground for member states to cope with the administration of providing and monitoring such activities by member states and communicating the possibilities to EU citizens.
It should be noted that the possibility is not only for surgical procedures but also other procedures. In particular, the are the on-going care, relief and rehabilitation procedures for a wide variety of chronic conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis, asthma and other such diseases and disorders which may also be covered by a cross-border care facility. For example, I know from my travels that such excellent services for all the chronic conditions mentioned above can be found in the delightful setting of Istria or the Kvarner regions of Croatia. One can enjoy the health-giving benefits of the ambient climate, excellent air quality and soothing properties of the sea whilst undergoing world-class recuperation and rehabilitation procedures.
So, why do more UK and other EU countries’ patients not take up the offer? It is suggested that the main reason is lack of awareness and this is most likely true. Patient groups, GP surgeries and other relevant locations have been provided with material but this is possibly not being openly advertised in these places as being an available service for qualifying patients. In addition, there is probably reluctance on some patients’ part to travel to other countries because there is a lack of confidence in the quality of health care standards. However, as everybody must be aware by now, the NHS often suffers from horrendous waiting times and, sadly, long treatment times for on-going medical conditions. Cross-border patient care provides a very welcome alternative, especially to UK NHS patients. A patient can get almost immediate treatment and, very often, at much lower cost. But, these costs still have to be picked up by the NHS.
However, I would argue that by relieving the NHS of the burden of trying to satisfy patients’ needs that are currently not being adequately serviced without huge waiting times, there are massive hidden benefits:
– Pressure on staff numbers reduced;
– Training periods and quality can be improved,
– Stress and anxiety from pressure-decisions reduced/relieved;
– Facility management position improves;
– Ability to manage the “unmanageable” improves;
– Satisfaction on all sides improves
The end result must surely be a reduction in overall costs thus helping the NHS and the patient (who is also a taxpayer…..!).
But why to suggest this? Because there is a hidden pool of world class quality medical care available within the EU which is currently being under utilised. Many member states have medical resources available of the same quality but often much cheaper than the UK and, more importantly, almost instantly available.
 Terms and conditions apply to all applications for cross-border patient care.