Health chiefs in Birmingham have ruled out changing their practices for reimbursing patients who go abroad for treatment.
It followed yesterday's landmark judgment ruling that local trusts could be forced to pay for overseas operations that they have not authorised.
Patients treated abroad will continue "to be authorised to do this by their local health-care commissioner", a state-ment from all four Birmingham Primary Care Trusts
said. It was released after the European Court ruled that patients should be reimbursed for overseas treatment if they face an "undue delay" for surgery at home. The ruling is expected to put extra financial pressure on the NHS.
The verdict came in a case brought by 75-year-old grandmother Yvonne Watts, who defied the NHS to have a £4,000 hip operation in France despite being warned that Bedford Primary Care Trust would not authorise payment.
The European Court of Justice confirmed that, under EU rules on free movement to provide services, one EU healthcare system must pay the bill if a patient is obliged to look elsewhere in Europe for treatment because of hold-ups.
But the judges did not award Mrs Watts her £4,000 back because they said it was up to the domestic courts to decide if, in her case, she had faced an "undue delay".
Mrs Watts took the first case of its kind involving the NHS to be challenged under EU law, after Bedford Primary Care Trust refused to cover her costs in France.
The trust had insisted the three to four-month wait for an NHS hip replacement did not amount to the "undue delay" which would warrant reimbursement of the foreign bill.
But yesterday, the European judges said the decision on what amounted to an "undue delay" should not be based on either NHS waiting lists or Government targets.
The decision was to be based entirely on the individual patient's medical condition and circumstances, the verdict said.
A spokeswoman for the South, Eastern, North and Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trusts said many local patients were receiving treatment well within official waiting list targets.
She added: "The judgment clarifies the previouslyexisting entitlement to hospital treatment abroad at NHS e xpense under certain circumstances.
"As has previously been the case, we continue with a system that requires any patient who wants to travel abroad for elective hospital treatment, paid for by the NHS, to be authorised to do this by their local healthcare commissioner before they receive treatment.
"The Department of Health is considering the full implications of the judgment before making any changes to the systems currently operated across the NHS."
A spokesman for Walsall PCT said its waiting lists were well under national targets, and have improved since last year.
He also said the trust had never faced a situation where a patient was forced to seek treatment abroad due to over-crowded waiting lists.
Mrs Watts was originally told she faced a waiting time of one year for a hip operation but that was revised to three to four months as she deteriorated. But she wanted swifter treatment abroad and, when the trust refused to authorise it, went to France anyway where she received the necessary surgery in Abbeville one month later. ..SUPL: