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UK hospital exports patients to France

Patients in south east England can now opt to have medical care in Calais or Le Touquet in a deal between the NHS and French hospitals.

NHS commissioners say the first patient has now used the service and ‘had a positive experience’.

Patients in Kent may now choose France in discussion with their GP for services ranging from ENT to gynaecology, ophthalmology and general surgery.

However the commissioning group behind the plan, NHS South Kent CCG, was not able to clarify why patients might prefer to have care in France.

They said they are required to make sure patients have the best possible choice and to do so they regularly give healthcare providers the chance to become accredited NHS providers - and EU rules allow for this to include services in other states. They said the decision to offer it to the French hospitals was simply because France is so close to the coast of Kent.

“This is purely about patient choice,” the body said.

CCG officer Hazel Carpenter added: “The feedback has been very good, and the French providers have listened – improving signage, for example. And the hospitals have already ensured that staff have excellent English language skills.”


  It comes as the Mail on Sunday claimed ‘top doctors’ have told them that ‘health tourists’ from the continent are ‘bleeding dry’ the NHS. The article partly blames expats who are ‘immediately eligible for treatment’ despite having lived abroad for years.

The complaints partly centred on the UK’s latest guidelines on who may have free NHS treatment. EU passport holders used to have to show that they had been living in the UK for at least six months (or were planning to, eg. students qualified if they were doing courses lasting longer than that). However the current rules only say someone must be ‘ordinarily resident’ meaning they are ‘properly settled in the UK for the time being’. There is no longer any minimum residence period and someone may be ‘ordinarily resident’ even if they spend more time in another country. A ‘pattern of regular trips to the UK over the years’ may be enough.

Expat pensioners holding UK S1 forms can have ‘free’ care. Other expats are not officially entitled to this but should present an EHIC (or French CEAM) for necessary treatment during their stay, under the reciprocal EU rules. Where they do not do so the rules say people may be charged for certain kinds of care, such as non-emergency hospital visits.


. A spokeswoman for the French health reimbursements system confirms nothing changes for early-retirees under the ‘new, universal’ system based on individual rights as permanent legal residents. As for the abolition of the status of adult ayant droit (dependant), existing ones maintain rights until the end of 2019 by which point cases may be reassessed if alternative arrangements are not in place. This does not apply to spouses and civil partners of S1 holders, who remain covered by  the country issuing the S1. Confusingly, the rules also say people whose partners are workers, may ‘ask to be attached’ to their partner’s health caisse.

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