Journal article

Publication details

Framing a Right to Treatment in English Law? Watts in Retrospective
in journal: Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law

Appears in this special issue:

Volume number: 14
Issue number: 3
Release year: 2007
Page range:

Author(s) details

Jean V. McHale

Publication description

Healthcare, free movement, Rights to treatment, Resource allocation, Watts
The Watts decision of the ECJ in 2006 led to consternation amongst media and policy makers alike in the UK. Did this really mean that EU law had granted NHS patients for the first time an explicit ‘right to treatment’? What would the implications be for individual patients and Member States? But as the dust has started to settled and we have time to take pause will Watts really prove a turning point or will time show that it is yet another healthcare law decision more noted for the publicity it receives in England and Wales than its long-term impact on law or on health policy? This article attempts to set Watts in the context of more general health law and policy in the UK. First it begins with a brief outline of the Watts case setting it in the context of domestic and ECJ jurisprudence. Secondly, it considers whether Watts does change the existing position and create a ‘right to healthcare’ in the context of NHS treatment. It considers the practical impact on patients seeking treatment abroad in relation to both primary care and secondary-hospital care. Thirdly, it considers the impact of the judgment on the NHS itself and on resource allocation in general. It suggests that while on its face the decision has the potential to undermine resource allocation policy the practical impact of the case may prove much more restrictive. Fourthly, it considers the impact of further EU developments post-Watts on access to healthcare across the EU.