Healthcare in Europe: The UK patient...putting it into practice

As a UK citizen, you have the right, in certain circumstances, to seek healthcare in the European Economic Area (EEA: EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) under the Cross Border Healthcare Directive. You can also access healthcare in all of these countries plus Switzerland under the S2 route.

So how do these systems work, what are you entitled to and how do you go about getting it?

Although the EU Directive on Patients’ Rights in Cross Border Healthcare was only approved in April 2011, the rights contained within it have been around for many years, and the UK has well developed systems to help you to exercise those rights.

These systems were refined following the European Court of Justice ruling in the case of Yvonne Watts (see below) in 2006, which confirmed that the NHS should authorise and reimburse treatment for patients facing an ‘undue delay’ for treatment in the UK.

There are currently two routes through which you can access cross border healthcare. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and your GP or local healthcare commissioner will advise you on the best route for you.

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