Health Minister Robin Swann is to reinstate the cross-border healthcare directive to the Republic of Ireland.
The directive is a temporary measure for a 12 month period to help reduce Northern Ireland waiting lists and will be subject to strict criteria.
The Minister said: “A key principle of our health service is that access to services is based on clinical need, not on an individual’s ability to pay. However we are in exceptional times and we must look at every option to tackle the waiting lists in Northern Ireland.
“Reinstating a limited version of the cross-border healthcare directive to Ireland will not have a dramatic impact on the overall waiting lists, but it will provide an opportunity for some to have their treatment much earlier.
“We need an urgent and collective approach across government to tackle this issue and deliver a health service that is fit for the 21st century.”
The Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme sets out a framework, based on the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive that will allow patients to seek and pay for treatment in the private sector in Ireland and have the costs reimbursed by the Health and Social Care Board. Costs will be reimbursed up to the cost of the treatment in Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland Reimbursement Scheme will be managed by the Health and Social Care Board and all treatment is subject to prior authorisation.
Concluding, the Minister said: “I remain steadfast in my commitment to tackle issues within the health service and I do not underestimate the challenge ahead. We must look at better ways of working if we are to have a health service that can deliver for now and for generations to come. Covid-19 brought many challenges but it also brought an opportunity to change what we do and how we do it. As we continue to rebuild we need to make the system stronger and more agile so that it can continue to deliver for many generations to come.”