Doctors encourage patients to seek treatment in the EU

Irish community doctors are encouraging patients to seek treatment abroad under an EU scheme in a bid to avoid the long waiting lists in this country.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has rolled out a new campaign for patients to use the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive, which allows for EU residents to access health services in EU member states other than their own.

There is no need to already be on a waiting list to avail of overseas healthcare, and if the patient meets the criteria, they can be reimbursed for the costs from the HSE.

Funding will only be reimbursed for healthcare that is publicly-funded, available in Ireland and is in line with Irish legislation. Healthcare includes acute and psychiatric hospital services, dental and orthodontics, and speech and language.

NAGP says that the EU Directive has the potential to significantly reduce waiting times for day, inpatient and outpatient care in Ireland and can ensure patients are seen sooner.

Ireland has one of the longest waiting lists for access to specialist appointments in Europe. According to Emmet Kerin, NAGP spokesperson, “Feedback from our members has highlighted the considerable lack of awareness among GPs and patients that they have the right to seek healthcare in another EU country.

“This has resulted in relatively low levels of uptake. The Directive, while not an ideal solution to the issues in our health system, has the potential to alleviate the pressure on hospitals and cut waiting times. The NAGP will, in the best interests of patients, proactively highlight the Cross Border Healthcare Directive to our members”