Friday 20 April 2018

No free healthcare in Ireland after leaving EU, UK visitors warned

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

UK visitors to the Republic of Ireland will no longer be eligible for reduced-cost or free healthcare if they become ill here post-Brexit, a new report is warning.

The European Health Insurance Card gives an EU citizen the right to access medically necessary healthcare during a temporary stay in another member state or Switzerland.

UK visitors will no longer be entitled to this care in Ireland or other member states if the UK pulls out of the EU.

It costs the UK government around €60m a year to reimburse the host countries for the care of visitors.

A report in 'The Lancet', which looked at a variety of post-Brexit scenarios for health and the health service in the UK, said it would pose major risks that would require serious considerations that should be incorporated into negotiations.

Northern Ireland may lose staff to the Republic.

Separate reports previously suggested Brexit could benefit the Republic, with more EU health workers choosing to work here, rather than the UK.

Currently the Republic and Northern Ireland share a health and social care workforce in some areas, the report pointed out.

One of the major risks is to NHS staff, and the authors noted it would be increasingly difficult for the UK to be self-sufficient in terms of its NHS and social care workforce.

"Estimates for 2017 suggest that 60,000 people from the EU work in the NHS and 90,000 work in adult social care," it said.

Professor Martin McKee, one of the authors of the study, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: "Our analysis of how Brexit will affect the NHS, although the UK's desired outcome remains unclear, is that Brexit in any form poses major risks to almost every part of the NHS."

Health officials in the Republic have already referred to shared care which exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Patients from Donegal have radiotherapy in Derry and children with congenital heart disease from Northern Ireland have their surgery in Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin.

Professor Tamara Hervey, another author of the study and a law professor from the University of Sheffield, in the UK, said: "I remain deeply concerned about the effects of leaving the EU on all aspects of the UK's economic, social and cultural life, including health.

"If we must leave the EU, I hope this analysis will help interested stakeholders."

Irish Independent

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