Scottish Government
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Health tourism proposals

A consultation has been launched seeking views from the Scottish public and professionals as the European Union aims to clarify rules on so-called 'health tourism'.

The EU's proposed Patient Mobility Directive seeks to bring together existing European case law to make clear the rules that will apply when EU nationals want to receive treatment in a Member State which is not their home country.

The consultation will seek the views of healthcare professionals, patient groups, health organisations and the public on a number of issues, including:

  • Ensuring the proposals do not adversely affect the NHS ability to plan and manage services - and making sure patients can only access services to which they are entitled on the NHS
  • The information patients need to make an informed decision about receiving treatment in another EU Member State
  • The potential volume of patients who may seek cross-border health care and the types of treatments that may be sought
  • Proposed measures for EU cooperation on healthcare.

The consultation will close on December 3. The draft Directive is due to be discussed at the Council of EU Health Ministers in Brussels on 15 and 16 December.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon, said:

"Although EU negotiations are reserved, it is vital that Scottish interests are protected. That is why we are conducting a Scottish consultation.

"We want to ensure that, where Scottish patients choose to travel abroad for care,they have clarity and certainity about what they can expect the NHS to fund.

"Equally, it is important that the NHS is able to plan properly for the possibility of people from other EU countries coming to Scotland for treatment and ensure that Scottish patients still get the priority they are entitled to.

"Of course, the priority for the vast majority of NHS patients is high quality healthcare received close to their homes, and we remain committed to providing this.

"The views gathered in this consultation will be used to inform the UK Government's negotiating position and help ensure that Scotland's interests are safeguarded."

Patients have a right to travel to other EU countries for healthcare, subject to certain conditions, under existing European Court of Justice case law. The Directive aims to codify this case law. The entitlement derived from the case law is in addition to long-standing EU rules (Regulation 1408/71) which allow:

  • UK citizens who go on a temporary visit to another EEA country to get state-provided healthcare that becomes necessary during a visit, paid for by the UK, via the European Insurance Card (EHIC)
  • UK citizens to go to another EEA country for planned public sector treatment provided they have prior approval from a local commissioner.

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