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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Foreign op case in European court
Yvonne Watts
Yvonne Watts went to France for the hip operation
A grandmother who went abroad for a hip operation is going to Europe's Court of Justice to try to recover the cost.

Osteoporosis sufferer Yvonne Watts, 74, from Bedfordshire, spent almost 4,000 on surgery in France in 2003 to avoid a year-long wait in the UK.

She later won a High Court case stating the NHS should pay for treatment abroad where a wait is unacceptable, but her local NHS Trust was not forced to pay.

Mrs Watts' case will be heard in Luxembourg on Tuesday.


Her daughter, Julie Harding, told the BBC how her mother, who also suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, was in "considerable pain".

Tears were streaming down her face and she said that she wished to die
Julie Harding

She said: "I can remember one particular day where my mum was struggling to walk to a downstairs loo and it took her 15 minutes.

"Tears were streaming down her face and she said that she wished to die - she couldn't go on any longer."

Ms Harding said this gave the family the determination to seek treatment abroad.


In 2003, a High Court judge ruled that her local Trust in Bedford did not have to reimburse the cost of the operation in France because she was eventually offered an earlier date for NHS treatment.

Both sides are asking the courts to re-examine the ruling, with the Department of Health arguing that it could create inequalities in the system.

Last year 353 English patients did go abroad for surgery paid for by the NHS.

Payment after surgery is also possible since Mrs Watts' case if undue delay has occurred.

However, Niall Dickson, of the independent think tank the King's Fund, said there would be less need for people to seek treatment abroad in future, as waiting times were coming down.

The outcome of the case will not be known for at least six months.

NHS faces foreign op payouts
02 Oct 03 |  Health

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