UK tourists who need routine medical treatment to be covered in EU for a year after Brexit

British travellers with certain pre-existing medical conditions will still be able to access health care for a year after the Brexit transition phase ends.

The current European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) scheme will expire at 11pm on New Year’s Eve. But kidney patients who need dialysis, people requiring regular oxygen therapy and cancer sufferers undergoing some types of chemotherapy should continue to get free treatment during 2021 for trips of up to six weeks.

The Ehic has allowed 30,000 kidney patients to travel in the European Economic Area (the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland and receive their dialysis free of charge.

The health minister, Edward Argar, said: “The government recognises that these ongoing, routine treatment costs can be expensive, and makes travelling abroad extremely challenging for many people.

“In the event we have not reached an EU-wide agreement on reciprocal healthcare, the government will implement a time-limited healthcare scheme that supports UK residents with ongoing, routine treatment needs.

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“This type of treatment was previously covered under the Ehic scheme.”

Until now EU dialysis centres have charged the NHS direct for treating kidney patients, but in 2021 some centres may ask patients to pay up front and reclaim the funding themselves.

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Fiona Loud, policy director for Kidney Care UK, said: “The ability for patients and their families to be able to travel in Europe is greatly valued. Patients need hope and have told us, time after time, that having a break means the world to them.

“Now the vaccination programme has started this is something to look forward to.

“We need arrangements to be made so people don’t have to pay in advance. We still want to see formal reciprocal healthcare agreements being reached during 2021”.

The health minister said: “Negotiations on future arrangements with the EU are ongoing and include necessary healthcare provisions.”

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