To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his policy is on the introduction of the common European health insurance card from June 2004. 
[holding answer 3 June 2003]: As part of the action plan for improving geographical mobility by 2005, the Barcelona European Council agreed to create a European health insurance card. In February 2003 the European Commission published a communication document COM(2003)13, which is available in the Library.This card is intended to replace the current paper forms needed to obtain health treatment during temporary stays in another member state of the European Union. The initial stage will replace the emergency health care form E111.Existing national cards may be adapted to conform to a European standard or member states which so wish may introduce a completely new card.The United Kingdom is generally supportive of the proposal to replace E111 if it simplifies bureaucracy for patients and administrations. Detailed consideration has been given to the practicalities of production of a UK card. It is likely that the UK will wish to take advantage of the transitional period of up to the end of 2005 proposed by the European Commission before card issue to the UK public begins.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the implications are for (a) British NHS patients and (b) European patients using the NHS of the introduction of the common European health insurance card from June 2004. 
[holding answer 3 June 2003]: The intention of the card is to simplify procedures, but not to change existing rights and obligations. The European Commission's proposal for a health insurance card is intended primarily for the benefit of citizens. It is hoped to eliminate as many formalities as possible in providing documentation showing entitlement to care in other member states. A European Union wide standard health card should facilitate temporary stays abroad for United Kingdom visitors, both outwards and incoming.