Conclusions and recommendations
115. We believe that the provision of accessible
and comprehensive information to patients and medical practitioners
is key to the success of the Directive. Patients will only
be able to make an informed decision on whether to seek cross-border
treatment if they have access to relevant information. Similarly,
practitioners will need access to this information in order to
advise patients appropriately. We consider that the provision
and financing of information must be the responsibility of the
home Member State.
116. The Commission proposes that the information
provided should include details about receiving healthcare in
another Member State, the terms and conditions that would apply,
patients' entitlements, procedures for using those entitlements
and systems of appeal and redress if the patient is deprived of
such entitlements or harm is caused as a result of healthcare
received in another Member State. We agree with the Commission's
suggestions about what information for patients should include.
However, we recommend that a standard Community format for the
provision of this information should not be drawn up. The
different procedures and processes that would need to be taken
into account are numerous and we believe that this could result
in the information being presented in a format that is difficult
for patients to understand or use.
117. We consider that there is a lack of clarity
in the Directive as to who is responsible for providing information
on the service available in a particular Member State. We recommend
that the government of each Member State should be responsible
for describing their own health system. Furthermore, we consider
that the exact role of national contact points in the provision
and dissemination of information, and where responsibility for
them should rest, should be clarified in the Directive.
118. The current lack of clarity over who is
to provide what information, and how, creates the potential for
this burden to fall primarily on medical practitioners. While
their involvement may be beneficial for helping patients make
an informed decision about cross-border care (see paragraph 72),
we recommend that the Directive makes clear that front line health
providers giving this information to patients should be protected
against complaints made against them if a patient suffers unexpected
harm in the course of subsequent treatment abroad.
119. Furthermore, we fear that the need to provide
information and advice on cross-border treatment would interfere
with the performance of practitioners' duties and could detract
from the standard or timeliness of treatment of local patients.
We therefore recommend that the Directive should avoid the
imposition of any administrative burden on healthcare practitioners
due primarily to information provision obligations.
120. It is clear that language may prove to be
a barrier in the delivery of cross-border healthcare and that
this may impact on a patient's choice to travel. We therefore
consider that patients must be made aware of any language issues
and costs before they seek cross-border healthcare. Language
barriers could prove particularly critical in the areas of giving
consent and ensuring continuity of care and patient safety. We
recommend that the responsibility for addressing the language
barrier is decided by the home Member State.