Directive on Cross Border Healthcare

Policy topic

In March 2011 the European Parliament and the Council of Minister adopted the Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare (2011/24/EU). The Directive was transposed into UK law through the National Health Service (Cross Border Healthcare) Regulations 2013 and on 25 October 2013 the Directive came into force across the EU.

The Directive clarifies patients’ rights to access to healthcare in another EU country and how to be reimbursed for it.  Under the Directive patients travelling to another EU country for treatment will be entitled to equal treatment of the citizens of that country and if the treatment is available in the patients home country they will be reimbursed by their home country.

Article 11 of the Directive relates to the recognition of prescriptions issue in another Member State and says that a prescription issued in one country should be recognised in a patient’s home country and vice versa ensuring that healthcare provided in one country is followed up in another. 

In December 2012 the European Commission introduced a non-exhaustive list of elements that should be included in medical prescriptions:

  • Identification of the patient
  • Authentication of the prescription
  • Identification of the prescribing professional
  • Identification of the prescribed product.

The Commission said that medicinal products should be indentified using their common name rather than their brand name as products are marketed under different names across the EU and some products are not marketed at all, though in some cases the brand name will be used. As medical devices do not have common names the Commission said that prescriptions should include contact details of the prescribing health professional.

Due to the fact that the level of Cross-Border healthcare is low the Commission has said that the non-exhaustive list should only apply to prescriptions intended to be used outside the Member State.

As the legislation only provides for a certain number of elements to be included in a prescription the decision as to whether to dispense a medicine will be depend on the professional discretion of pharmacists.

The Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) strongly supported the idea of the recognition of cross border prescriptions but argued that any non-exhaustive list of elements to be included in a prescription should be as comprehensive as possible to guarantee patient safety and continuity of care.

The PGEU issued statement on the Recognition of Prescriptions to influence the contents of this non-exhaustive list proposing that prescriptions should include both the medicines common name and brand name. The Directive now proposes that medicines should be identified by their common name and in some cases by their brand name.

The PGEU also lobbied successfully to change the Directive to ensure that the rights of pharmacists were respected, for example the right of a pharmacist to refuse to dispense is broadly respected.