The cost of EU holiday healthcare for people who require routine hospital treatment such as dialysis and chemotherapy will continue to be covered if there is no Brexit deal to replace the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Health minister Edward Argar revealed the plan in a written statement to Parliament on Thursday.
The arrangements will last for 12 months from January 1, 2021.
Argar said: “This government will introduce the scheme with the intention that it is used by individuals who are certain to require treatment while abroad, such as regular dialysis, oxygen therapy or certain types of chemotherapy.
“The government recognises that these ongoing, routine treatment costs can be expensive and makes travelling abroad extremely challenging for many people.”
It means Britons who need life-sustaining treatment, equipment and medication can now make travel plans for next year at no extra cost.
It is not clear whether it will apply to people undergoing all forms of treatment, according to The Guardian.
Argar said people applying for the scheme “must be ordinarily resident in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and entitled to the treatment on the NHS”.
He added: “Individuals will need to work with their NHS clinician to agree their treatment requirements and confirm they meet the criteria in the scheme.”
The government is expected to seek bilateral deals with EU countries popular with British tourists in the event of no overall deal on EHIC when Brexit trade talks end.
Argar added: “The government will assess its options for reciprocal healthcare if we do not achieve an EU-wide arrangement.
“This includes the possibility of negotiating bilateral arrangements on social security co-ordination, including reciprocal healthcare, with individual EU member states.”
Fiona Loud, policy director for Kidney Care UK, said it could help up to 30,000 people on dialysis in the UK. She told the newspaper that travel was “greatly valued” to kidney patients and their families.
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