Deirdre Clune criticises HSE for not publicising overseas medical care

An MEP has accused the HSE of dragging its feet on the implementation of an EU directive that allows patients claim back money for medical treatment abroad.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune spoke out after an EU report found that few Europeans, and just 11% of Irish patients, are aware of their rights under the EU Cross Border Healthcare Directive. “Ireland has had 62 patients using the directive. Denmark has had 30,000,” the Fine Gael MEP said. “I feel the HSE are dragging their heels, when it comes to the full and frank implementation of this directive.”

Last night, she called on the HSE to launch a major information campaign to make people aware of their rights. Under the Cross Border Health Care Directive, any public patient with a referral letter from their GP, or consultant, may obtain medical treatment in another EU member state, and claim reimbursement from the HSE. The HSE has a national contact point, whose role it is to provide information to patients about the directive.

However, a report from the European Commission to The European Parliament and Council shows that only 11% of Irish people knew of the contact point.

“This is surely a failing of that office, given that the Cross Border Healthcare Directive was transposed into Irish law over 12 months ago,” Ms Clune said.

“Travelling to another country, with a substantial outlay of costs, may not be an option for all patients, but for others it could mean a life-changing procedure.”

The report found there were 40,000 requests, last year, for cross-border reimbursements from patients in 20 countries.

Denmark had the highest level of participation, with 30,000 claims, followed by France, Luxembourg and Finland. Only 62 patients availed of the directive in Ireland. The report also found that some EU countries are making it hard for citizens to seek treatment abroad, and are putting administrative roadblocks in their way.

The HSE said it has targeted its information about the directive through a comprehensive website and has held information sessions in hospitals, when requested.

It made a presentation at the European Patient’s Forum conference, in Dublin, in April, 2015, which was attended by patient representative groups from the UK and Ireland.

It also held consultation meetings with the Irish College of GPs (ICGP). “HSE offices actively inform patients of the provisions of the Cross Border Directive, in particular where patients are experiencing delays in accessing treatments,” a spokesperson said.

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