British expats who are living in Europe will soon be given a handy bonus in the shape of the Cross Border Healthcare Directive.
From 2010 British expats who have medical treatment in another EU state will be able to claim back the cost of the procedures via the NHS.
Patients will only be reimbursed to the price of the procedure in their home country, and a doctor back in England will need to approve treatment beforehand. Special treatments will be subject to more stringent checks prior to approva. Long term care and serious organ transplants are excluded from the scheme.
Those who benefit the most could be Brits who spend six months a year overseas. To use the NHS for non-emergency care, Brits must spend at least 181 days in England. This condition might not be met by the expats who prolong their winter stay abroad. Under current rules, they would not qualify for routine treatment abroad, and could find their claim rejected by the NHS when they return.
However, not everyone sees this as good news, as more resources will be spent in the UK. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said: “The rules will turn the UK's NHS into a bureaucratic nightmare. Extra staff will be needed to chase up money owed from countries such as Romania.”