University of Sheffield report warns cost of kidney treatment in EU could soar if no-deal Brexit

Thousands of kidney patients who rely on essential treatment could see their healthcare costs soar when travelling in the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a new report by Sheffield University has warned.

Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 10:20 am
Updated Thursday, 12th September 2019, 14:43 pm
UK kidney patients could see a rise in treatment prices in the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Patients with kidney problems require haemodialysis to stay alive but the treatment, which is a form of dialysis that costs £300 per session, is not covered by travel insurance as it is a planned treatment for a pre-existing condition.

Currently it is covered through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) but patients in the UK will immediately lose their right to access free treatment in another EU country should the UK leave without a deal on October 31.

The report by the University of Sheffield and Kidney Care UK, looks at the impact a no-deal Brexit would have on UK dialysis patients receiving kidney care in Spain, France, Ireland, Italy and Greece - the countries most visited by dialysis patients known to the charity.

It warns that if no reciprocal healthcare arrangements are made with EU countries, UK patients will not be able to travel in Europe unless they pay around £900 a week for the essential heamodialysis sessions.

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Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, said: “Every kidney patient should be able to travel, but if we do not have reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the EU post-Brexit this will be severely curtailed for those on haemodialysis. With the UK still to reach healthcare agreements with any EU countries, patients have been left in limbo. With less than two months to go, thousands of kidney patients still do not know if they will be able to travel in Europe after Brexit.

“Without comprehensive agreements, most of the 25,500 kidney patients relying on haemodialysis will no longer be able to go to the EU due to the crippling costs of treatment. This is simply not acceptable. We need the government to address the issue of reciprocal healthcare as a priority. Today’s Healthcare after Brexit report underlines this need.”

The report said there are alternative possibilities for accessing treatment, such as the UK securing bilateral agreements with individual member states, or patients relying on domestic laws in the countries they visit, but these are not certain.

Professor Tamara Hervey, co-author of the report and Professor of European Union Law at the University of Sheffield, said: “Bland statements from government that we are ready for no deal are not reassuring to vulnerable people – like kidney patients – whose legal position will change. We urgently need detailed and specific responses from government on this – among all the many issues that arise for health in the event of Brexit – especially a no-deal Brexit.”

To read the full report click here.