As mentioned above, although the UK has until 2013 to implement the Directive into national law, the NHS Confederation’s European Office has produced a useful briefing on the implication of the Directive for commissions and providers. This article focuses on the key points for providers which are as follows:  

  • NHS, independent and third sector providers can provide healthcare to European patients and be paid for this directly by the patient or through the patient’s home system;
  • Providers cannot charge European patients more or apply different quality or safety standards to them. They cannot automatically be charged private fees; instead they must have the option of being treated as “paying” NHS or private patients.
  • It is not clear how the cost of procedures will be calculated.
  • European patients will be entitled to complain and seek compensation according to UK rules and procedures.
  • Providers are not required to treat patients from elsewhere to the detriment of UK patients.  

Whilst it is not yet clear what the demand will be for cross-border healthcare in the UK, there is clearly an opportunity for those NHS trusts which provide highly specialised care with an international reputation to expand their income base in this way.

Providers need to bear in mind that NHS tariffs are sometimes higher than those in other countries which could negatively impact on the number of patients seeking to come to the UK, as patients will only be reimbursed up to the cost of the same treatment in their own country.