Editorials

EU directive on patients’ rights to cross border healthcare

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f7694 (Published 31 December 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f7694
  1. Denis Horgan, director1,
  2. David Byrne, former European Union commissioner for health and consumer affairs2,
  3. Angela Brand, professor of social medicine and public health genomics 3
  1. 1European Alliance for Personalised Medicine, 1050 Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  3. 3Institute for Public Health Genomics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands
  1. denis.horgan{at}euapm.eu

A largely theoretical achievement; so much more remains to be done

The European Union’s latest bid to improve healthcare—the directive on patients’ rights in cross border care—provides a graphic demonstration of just how far Europe remains from any real coherence on health policy and on innovation.1 2

The new rule is designed to clarify and reinforce citizens’ rights to choose where to seek medical treatment, and in what circumstances. But when it came into effect in October 2013, even the European health commissioner was unable to announce anything more than a theoretical achievement. “From today, all EU countries should have transposed” the directive into their national law, said Tonio Borg. The reality, as his officials were obliged to admit, is that few of the 28 member states had actually done so 30 months after the EU agreed to the rule.

The directive’s effectiveness depends on collaboration by member states at EU level. But such collaboration is in short supply when the EU tackles many aspects of health—a deficiency that threatens to turn this well intentioned initiative into a hollow gesture. As a result, the opportunities for patients to …

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