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Plans that allow patients to shop around the EU for medical treatment and then send the bill back home have been passed by MEPs.
The scheme will see the healthcare systems of home countries reimburse the medical costs of citizens who choose to have treatment elsewhere in the EU.
If the controversial plans are endorsed by EU ministers, the Government has said it will take steps to protect the NHS.
Labour MEPs complained that the operational rules were not clear enough, saying patients travelling to another EU country for treatment must be aware of the full picture about reimbursement and the standard of healthcare they will receive.
Labour’s Linda McAvan, who along with the other Labour MEPs abstained from the vote, continued: “That is why we back a clear system of prior authorisation for all hospital and specialised care, meaning that patients have to be referred through the NHS before being treated abroad.”
She said the number of people from Britain seeking health care elsewhere in the EU was only reached 552 patients in 2007 and the figure was not expected to increase by much even if the new plan comes into force.
But Tories insist the proposals, adopted by 297-120 votes in Strasbourg, clarify patient rights.
Copyright Press Association