Brexit news is everywhere but it is still not clear yet how it will affect citizens, especially kidney patients. There are several potential issues.
See our Open Letter on Brexit for kidney patients for more information
As you may know, we currently have an EHIC card (European Health Insurance Card) which enables dialysis treatment to be given free of charge in state-run units across the EU. This has been achieved by a reciprocal healthcare arrangement which, while not always perfect, is key to the ability to travel on dialysis.
For people who have kidney failure who need dialysis, the EHIC system is essential to allow them to travel in Europe and we are therefore eager to gain a clear picture of what is being done to secure this system after Brexit takes place and the UK leaves the EU.
Read the blog post from dialysis patient Nicola Hawkins, who writes about the life-changing access to healthcare granted by the EHIC.
We need your help
To do this, we need your help to ensure that MPs are aware of the matter and recognise that it concerns a significant group of people. The more people who are prepared to write to their MP to raise this point, the more likely they are to raise it in turn; which will help keep EHIC on the agenda.
Write to your MP
Please write a letter to your MP to ask them to make sure EHIC is an integral part of negotiations. And please ask your family and friends to do the same. You can find your MP by clicking here and typing in your postcode.
Although the United Kingdom has given notice of its intention to leave the EU, we continue to be a member until Brexit actually takes place.
We have drafted an outline letter for you to use containing the main points. But we would really like to encourage you to explain in your own words what it would mean to you if the EHIC system were lost and you were unable to receive dialysis free of charge when you travelled to Europe. Your personal views will allow MPs to understand why this is so important.
Please either send your note as an email or post your letter to the MP’s office .
Please don’t forget to send me a copy at firstname.lastname@example.org, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, 3 The Windmills, St Mary’s Close, Turk Street, Alton GU34 1EF. Thank you to everyone that has done this so far.
The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill
The government has brought forward a new bill, the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, which sets up the framework for people to continue to receive healthcare in EU countries after Brexit. Yesterday it made good progress through parliament and we understand that it will help to provide the equivalent of EHIC and therefore dialysis when you travel in the EU.
The debate included discussion of dialysis being a reason to have this new law (see below).
Meeting at the Department of Health and Social Care
Presently there are 29,000 people in the UK receiving dialysis treatment for kidney failure, and they have the right to travel freely. It is incredibly important that this continues, and so we are working to make policymakers, on behalf of kidney patients, and the media aware of the issue.
On the 14 September we attended a meeting with the Brexit reciprocal healthcare team at the Department of Health and Social Care.
A big thank you to Amanda and Stephen Kirwan and Maddy Warren who travelled to London with Policy Director Fiona Loud to explain to the DH how important it is to retain access to EHIC and travel in the EU after Brexit, and the practicalities of travel on dialysis. This fact-finding workshop will be followed up by another this year and Kidney Care UK were pleased that our concerns have at least been heard, although there is a very long way to go. The campaign for any future settlement to support the needs of kidney patients continues.
In August we wrote to the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, about our key Brexit concerns, and received a reply in September.
- Kidney Care UK letter to Matt Hancock - Brexit - 5 Aug 2018
- Matt Hancock reply to Kidney Care UK - Brexit - Sept 2018
We have given evidence about EHIC in two Parliamentary sessions, one of which was to the Health Select Committee. We were disappointed that the government response to it has been non-committal, and merely says that there will be some money set aside for staff to work on issues 'such as reciprocal healthcare’. We were encouraged by the stated wish to include reciprocal healthcare in a recent proposal developed at Chequers but nothing is clear yet.
We have met with and briefed a number of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who subsequently wrote a cross-party open letter to Jeremy Hunt to ask him to remember dialysis patients in the Brexit negotiations. This letter was picked up by the ‘I’ paper, the Independent and LBC radio. We have briefed the Conservative, Labour, LibDems and SNP MPs and written on several occasions to the Brexit Department and the Ministers for Brexit and Health.
However, as this, along with so many other Brexit issues, cannot be guaranteed, until or unless this is settled we will keep raising this issue on behalf of kidney patients, because the needs of people with long-term conditions will continue to cross borders. In the case of a hard Brexit we cannot know what the outcome will be.
We have received a letter from Sabine Weyand, the Deputy Chief Negotiator at the EU, who has told us that UK nationals would be treated as third country nationals after Brexit. However, she also said "Depending on the level of ambition of the UK, rights under the EHIC system may figure amongst the issues to discuss under the framework of the future EU-UK relations".