Q: I have been in dreadful pain for the past three years with my hip. Initially I was told it was not bad enough to warrant a replacement. When I eventually got to see a consultant who considered it had become bad enough I was devastated to find out that I could not have the operation for another eighteen months due to lengthy waiting lists.
I really don’t think I can cope with the pain for that long and so I am wondering whether to look at going abroad to get the operation done in another EU country as a lot of people seem to do this now and claim it is quicker. How would I go about it and what legal implications might there be?
A: Going abroad for a hip replacement is a possibility but you should undertake the process with extreme care due to the cost of treatment.
Following an EU directive in 2011, EU citizens now have a fundamental right to purchase healthcare services across the European Economic Area. In most cases, however, you would need to pay the cost upfront and the risk is how you recover the cost of the treatment.
It is important and probably relevant to all such operations that you seek medical advice and authorisation from your Health Board before going abroad. There are a number of treatments which specifically require authorisation and prior approval, though it would seem to be sensible to do that in every case.
You should be aware that the NHS Wales and NHS England have different specific requirements which can be found on their websites. If you do end up in dispute with the Health Authority then this will be something that your local solicitor can assist with.