INCREASING concerns over hospital acquired infections will see UK patients voting with their feet on Labour’s handling of the health care system.
That’s the claim of Ellesmere Port’s Tory MEP, Sir Robert Atkins.
Last week saw the publication of proposals for legislation on cross-border health care.
This aims to establish a framework for a “free market” in health care across the EU with patients able to travel abroad for medical treatment by 2010.
Patients travelling from the UK would have the NHS equivalent cost of their treatment refunded.
Sir Robert said: “With ever-growing concerns over the spread of hospital infections like C.difficile and MRSA we will doubtless see people voting with their feet on the Government’s handling of the NHS.”
The proposals have been prompted by a series of European court rulings, including the case of Yvonne Watts from the UK who travelled to France for a hip operation.
The European Court of Justice said if there was “undue delay” in their home country a person had the right to travel to another member state to receive treatment and be reimbursed.
Sir Robert added: “The fact that the European Court of Justice has been making the rules on cross-border health care, rather than politicians who represent the public, has been a concern and so I broadly welcome this proposal for legislation.
“People have been travelling abroad for various treatments for years and the procedure needs to be formalised rather than leaving decisions to the interpretation of the courts.
“As long as no toes are trodden on in the subsidiarity of health care systems in individual member states, this is a positive step.”
North West Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, who chairs the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee which this year produced a report on health services in the EU, said: “There are some good innovative proposals which will improve the quality of healthcare across the EU, including new Europe-wide networks of excellence.
“But I warn the European Commission not to raise false expectations that patients can access healthcare in Europe anywhere at any cost.
“The right to access healthcare in other EU countries must not undermine the integrity and financing of the NHS and it mustn’t disadvantage those who don’t have the cash to pay up front.”