Brexit implication fears for patients travelling for treatment

Concerns have been raised about the implications of Brexit for patients travelling to Britain for medical treatment.

Brexit implication fears for patients travelling for treatment

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on health, Billy Kelleher, claimed Brexit will pose a significant challenge to Irish healthcare.

“Reports that the Minister for Health and the Department of Health are not prepared for the ramifications of Brexit are deeply concerning,” he said.

The Cork TD insisted there are numerous important health services reliant on Britain’s membership within the EU.

The Irish Patients’ Association (IPA) also believes patients could find it difficult to access treatments when Britain quits the EU and wants a contingency plan put in place.

Currently, two EU schemes entitle Irish patients to travel to receive treatment — the Treatment Abroad Scheme (TAS) and the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive (CBD).

Under the TAS, patients are eligible to travel to an EU member state to receive treatments not available in Ireland once they meet the criteria for the scheme.

The CBD allows public patients to access healthcare in another EU or EEA country.

According to figures released by the HSE, 91% of patients availing of the TAS travelled for treatment to England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales during 2015.

“Border communities will be severely adversely affected by this. Many access services such as radiotherapy in Northern Ireland, as it’s much quicker than waiting for an appointment with the HSE,” said Mr Kelleher.

“Life-saving treatments and procedures, such as those provided by Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, are at risk here.

“Ensuring that Irish patients don’t lose out requires an immediate and swift response.

IPA spokesman Stephen McMahon said: “We see this as a key patient safety and quality issue.

“We would support any calls to be proactive with our planning, so we don’t have patients denied care as a result of Brexit.

“We shouldn’t be waiting for the day the Brexit button is pushed. Now is the time to assess and ensure.”

Although patients could be transferred for treatment in mainland Europe instead of Britain under the schemes, Mr McMahon said there are several possible implications for patients such as having to travel further, a language barrier, and encountering validation issues like getting in contact with consultants.

The IPA is equally concerned about British patients living in Ireland accessing treatment after Brexit.

Whatever arrangement is put in place for patients must work both ways, added Mr McMahon.

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