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Cross border healthcare plans: advice for patients

22-Sep-2008

The BMA has broadly welcomed plans to allow greater mobility for patients from within the EU to travel abroad for healthcare services.

Under the proposals unveiled by the European Commission in July, patients would not have to get a  doctor's approval for non-hospital care abroad and patients could claim up to the amount their treatment would have cost in their home country.

But the BMA, while tentatively welcoming the plans, says that there are many practical and quality issues which still need to be addressed. Patients would be required to undertake their own research on which medical tourism provider they should use. They need to consider the potential difficulties as well as the potential financial savings.

Patiuents should research whether there would be any issues as a result of language barriers or the lack of continuity of care, particularly if things go wrong.

Other measures include better information about services available, a guarantee that prescriptions would be honoured across the EU, timely data transfer, and the creation of EU-wide networks of healthcare providers, which would enable countries to pool resources.

The BMA is calling for minimum quality standards for healthcare in Europe overseen by the European Commission, and for a system of regulatory redress and compensation for patients who suffer unexpected harm as a result of care received in other EU countries.

Dr Terry John, who chairs the BMA’s International Committee, said:  “Unfortunately it is not always possible for patients to get high quality care close to home without delay, and we support the principle of greater mobility within Europe.”

“However, we would like to see much more work done on some of the practicalities – for example, who will interpret and translate medical notes? How will information be shared between doctors in the home country and those in the country providing treatment,” he asked.

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