Overseas treatment plan meets cautious welcome

The BMA has welcomed plans to let patients have treatment anywhere in Europe on the same terms as at home.

Patients will be able to claim the amount their treatment would have cost in their home country.

Under the plans, GPs will remain the gatekeepers to UK healthcare and EU member states will specify what services they provide and what they cost.

But GPs will be freed from the burden of telling patients about their rights to treatment abroad.

'Medical professionals, particularly family doctors ... should not be expected to organise cross-border treatment,' the BMA has warned.

Patients' rights to medical treatment in any of the 27 EU member states were made clear in July in a package assembled by the European Commission.

The BMA says proposed upfront payments with later reimbursement will discriminate against poorer patients and calls for rapid, full reimbursement. Top-up payments where treatments are more expensive than in the patient's home country could be discriminatory, it fears.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said continuity of care was a key issue.

He said that, if patients were treated abroad, clear processes for follow-up and clinical responsibility were vital.

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

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