NEW legislation reinforcing the right for patients to travel to another European country for treatment and to have the cost reimbursed has been given the go-ahead by the European Parliament.

This new EU legislation follows a 2006 European Court of Justice ruling that the NHS could not refuse to refund costs of treatment in another EU member state if patients waited longer than clinicians advised, even if waiting list targets were met.

West Midlands Liberal Democrat MEP Liz Lynne was the shadow draft person for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) group on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee and tabled amendments to ensure that it is the UK Government that is responsible for authorising and paying for treatment in other countries so as to ensure the legislation applies to everyone and not just to those who can afford it.

She said: "Cross border healthcare has always been around for people who can afford it. This legislation opens this opportunity up to all people irrespective of income and must now be backed by the UK Government.

"Why should a patient have to lose their sight waiting for a cataract operation, or spend months in agony waiting for a hip replacement when they could get treatment sooner in another member state, sometimes at a lesser cost to the country of origin?

"If a clinician advises treatment and this cannot be provided at home, then we need a legal framework to ensure it can be sought elsewhere."