Healthcare services provided outside the country of residence are governed by the Directive 2011/24 / EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2011. The aim of the Directive is to simplify the rules on the use of healthcare in the Union.
Cross-border healthcare can be used by patients who have the right to publicly-funded healthcare services in their countries of residence.
The Directive allows patients living in the European Economic Area (EU + Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein) to receive medical treatment outside the country of residence with the treatment costs being reimbursed by the state health system (in the country of residence), provided that the treatment would ordinarily be available to the patient under the state healthcare system in their country of residence.
In the case of England, the patient does not need to inform the state health system that he or she is going abroad for treatment. Nor does the patient need to acquire prior approval from the state system, unless the treatement is classified as highly specialized (the list of highly specialised treatments is available here). In the case of England, most routine surgeries, diagnostic tests, or specialist consultations do not require prior consent of the NHS.
The cost of medical treatment is reimbursed up to the level of valuation of that treatment by the state health system. A large proportion of patients choose treatment in countries where the cost of services is lower than in their country of residence, thus practically guaranteeing a full refund of medical expenses by the state fund.
Using treatment abroad is in the interest of patients. The patient can access treatment without having to wait in the NHS queues, and can use both public and private clinics abroad.
Patients must be ordinarily resident in England with rights to NHS treatment.
Treatment must be available to the patient within the NHS. This means that, for example, cosmetic treatments are not refunded.
Treatment must take place in one of the countries of the European Economic Area (EU + Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein).
Treatment must be necessary to diagnose or cure a medical condition.