Britons living in Italy today branded the UK government’s announcement that it would finance the healthcare of British pensioners living in the EU only for a year, as “shameful”. Worse still, it could cost lives, warned Delia Dumaresq, a committee member of British in Italy.

The government announced yesterday that it would continue to finance the only medical treatment of British pensioners in the EU which had begun, or been applied for, by March 29, the date the UK is supposed to leave the EU. But it will not pay for any treatment begun after March 29.

“It is shameful that people who have contributed all their lives to the National Health Insurance scheme are suddenly stripped of their rights. They have just as much right to expect the same healthcare as anyone living in the UK”, she said. “They came to live in the EU, relying on the fact that they could face old age without having to worry about medical bills.” Being abandoned by the British government like this has been their worst Brexit nightmare.

The year’s lifeline “is certainly a very small step forward will help those who are undergoing, or have applied for treatment for serious conditions such as cancer or kidney failure. But what happens to them when the year is over? People’s lives are literally at stake.

“And what about those who only discover that they have a serious condition shortly after Brexit? They will be every bit as vulnerable, but will get no help at all from the UK. They will struggle to get health insurance because of their age. The government says they can have healthcare if they return to the UK, but what about those who are too sick, too old or too poor to return?” she asked.

“What is to happen in those countries where the possession of an S1 certificate, which until now entitled them to healcare and will no longer be valid, is essential for enrolment in their health service?

“And how on earth is this ill-defined scheme to be understood by hard-pressed administrators in surgeries and hospitals over 27 different countries?  And if they do not know how to administer it, is there not a massive risk that they will either refuse treatment or insist that the patient pays?”