Robin Swann implementing cross-border health scheme to plug post-Brexit loss of EU access

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A new cross-border health scheme will be introduced within weeks to allow Derry patients to receive reimbursement of costs for treatments undergone in the south.

Robin Swann announced the introduction of the scheme on Tuesday, saying it should be up and running in a matter of weeks.

The issue was raised in the Assembly by Foyle MLA Martina Anderson who complained that her constituents can no longer access some cross-border services as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU.

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“My understanding, from dealing with constituents in Derry who have tried to avail of the EU cross-border reimbursement scheme for hip replacements and so on, is that it no longer exists in the way in which it did before,” said Ms. Anderson during an exchange with the Health Minister in Stormont on Monday.

Health Minister Robin SwannHealth Minister Robin Swann
Health Minister Robin Swann

Mr. Swann acknowledged this was the case, stating: “The cross-border healthcare directive (CBHD) enabled UK citizens to access healthcare in any EU country in either the private or public sector and to be reimbursed for that care abroad by their home country.

“As of the end of the EU exit transition, the directive no longer applies to the UK. Transitional provisions have been made to ensure that if someone has applied to or used the CBHD before the end of the transition, reimbursement for treatments will be honoured for up to one year, based on certain conditions.”

The Health Minister said he had also asked his officials to look at the possibility of re-establishing a version of the cross-border healthcare directive to the south.

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“The Republic of Ireland reimbursement scheme will set out a framework based on the cross-border healthcare directive and will allow patients to seek and pay for any treatment in the private sector in Ireland and have the costs, up to the cost of the treatment in Health and Social Care (HSC) in Northern Ireland, reimbursed.

“The Republic of Ireland reimbursement scheme will be open to ordinary residents of Northern Ireland and managed by the Health and Social Care Board.

“All treatments are subject to prior authorisation,” he said.

On Tuesday Mr. Swann confirmed that he was bringing forward a reimbursement scheme and that it will be up and running in July.

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“I am announcing the establishment of a new cross-border healthcare scheme to allow patients to receive treatment in the Republic of Ireland’s established private sector and then to seek reimbursement up to the cost of the equivalent treatment to the HSC in Northern Ireland. This scheme will be operating within weeks,” he said.

Back in February during a joint briefing of the Executive Office Committee and the Seanad Special Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK, Ms. Anderson said: “A constituent was in contact with me because she wanted to get access to cross-border healthcare.

“She did not realise that she could not make that application anymore because of Brexit and that option was now lost to her. The realisation caused shock waves for her.”