Patients seeking treatment abroadBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5769 (Published 18 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5769
- Helena Legido-Quigley, research fellow1,
- Martin McKee, professor of European public health1
- 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH, UK
If Andrew Lansley’s proposals for reorganisation of the NHS survive parliamentary scrutiny, large numbers of general practice commissioning groups will soon be taking responsibility for purchasing much of the specialist care provided to their patients.1 Many of these groups may already be thinking how they will deal with a very different set of providers, including increasingly independent foundation trusts, some of which may have become social enterprises outside the NHS, and an expanded private sector. They may have given less thought to those patients who choose to seek treatment abroad. Yet they may need to, and as a recent court ruling illustrates,2 this may be more complicated than they realise.
Although the number of patients seeking treatment elsewhere in the European Union is small,3 this could easily change, especially if people are faced with growing waiting lists or other forms of rationing as the new groups seek to control their budgets. British residents have had the right to obtain treatment in another EU country since 1971.4 Initially, the opportunities were limited mainly to people who fell ill when abroad or, less often, when the NHS agreed that there were …