NHS Reimbursement for Neurosurgery Abroad

Purely from a quality of services rendered point of view the NHS does an outstanding job. Their surgeons are top notch, their facilities modern and well-equipped and their success rates commendable. There are however, 2 things about the NHS that are not so commendable, especially if you are in need of surgery: applying for NHS reimbursement and the queues, which can keep you waiting a up to a year or more. While having your surgery abroad is without a doubt the best way to get around the endless queues you’ll still need to apply for reimbursement, unless you want to pay for your procedure out of pocket. Fortunately, the experienced team at Neuro Spine Riga can help guide you through the reimbursement application process.

NHS Reimbursement Funding for Surgery Abroad: Options

Many Brits are under the impression that Brexit put an end to their ability to claim reimbursement for important (non-cosmetic) surgical procedures performed abroad. Happily, this is not the case. As the UK is still and will remain a member of the European Union until mid-2019 the two methods by which legal UK residents can receive funding for those procedures – the so-called “S2” funding route and the “EU Directive” route – are still in play. Therefore, if you wish to apply for reimbursement for lumbar microdiscectomy, lumbar decompression or ACDF surgery the option is still open to you. The benefits of having neurosurgery on NHS abroad at a facility like Neuro Spine Riga are many and include:

  • Reduced costs – You can have your surgery at Neuro Spine Riga for less than half what it would cost in London or Dublin.
  • No waiting – Even if approved for surgery on a slipped disc NHS could still make you wait months to actually have the procedure. In Riga you’ll have your surgery and be on the road to recovery in a matter of a few weeks.
  • Quality – There is no drop off in quality when you have your spinal surgery in Riga. Our surgeons are some of the best trained and most experienced in Northern Europe.
  • Timely assistance – The experienced and highly trained support staff at Neuro Spine Riga will help you with every step of the NHS refund form and the labyrinthian NHS reimbursement application process.

Taken separately any of these would typically be enough to warrant making the short flight to the Latvian capital to have your surgery. When considered together they are maybe the closest thing you’ll find to an open and shut case.

NHS Funding for Surgery Abroad: The Application Process

Any form of spinal surgery, whether performed by a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon, requires prior approval from the NHS in order to qualify for either S2 or EU Directive funding. If you have talked to the Neuro Spine Riga UK patient coordinator and decided to have your surgery in Riga your next step will be to download and complete the funding application form from the NHS website. It’s important that you download the most recent application form as older forms are sometimes rejected. On the NHS refund for treatment abroad application you will need to detail the particulars of the proposed operation, who is to perform the surgery, the proposed date and other pertinent information as well. It can sometimes seem a daunting task so if you need assistance filling out this form get back in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.


Any legal resident of the UK who is in need of NHS spine surgery is eligible to apply for reimbursement by way of either the S2 or EU Directive funding mechanisms. Approval is not guaranteed and in order to have a chance you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • The applicant must be a legal resident of the UK who is entitled to NHS healthcare services.
  • The surgery must be considered a medical necessity.
  • The facility providing the healthcare service must be based in a European Economic Area (EEA) country.
  • The propose surgery must be equivalent to what you would receive in the UK via NHS.
  • You must obtain a letter from an EEA clinician stating you have undergone a proper clinical assessment.

Prior authorisation from NHS is required to qualify for either S2 or EU Directive funding when you have your surgery abroad and, as we stated, approval is not guaranteed. Some of the reasons a patient’s funding application may be denied include:

  • Traveling to have surgery will in all likelihood make the patient’s condition worse or otherwise pose a grave danger to the health of the patient.
  • Were the patient to have their surgery abroad it would somehow pose a risk to the public (not an issue with neuro or orthopaedic surgeries).
  • The proposed provider of the surgery is known to exercise lax or questionable standards of safety and/or patient care (not an issue with Neuro Spine Riga).
  • NHS is convinced they can provide the surgery themselves within an acceptable amount of time.  

Of all the stipulations outlined above perhaps the most important is the assessment letter from the EEA clinician. This letter must lay out a convincing case that the surgery is both medically justified and that waiting to have NHS lower back pain surgery would be counterproductive. This is yet another area where the experienced team at Neuro Spine Riga can help.

Important note: Even if NHS approves your request for funding to have your surgery abroad it does not assume liability for the procedure, only for the cost.

Can I Have My Surgery Abroad and Apply for Reimbursement After the Fact?

This is a common question. Unfortunately, because prior approval is required for any sort of NHS neurosurgery you will not be able to have your spinal surgery abroad and apply for and receive a refund after returning. The only possible exception might be if you suffered a spinal injury abroad through some sort of accident and needed immediate attention. Other than that if you travel abroad for the express purpose of having spinal surgery and do not apply for and receive NHS approval first you will have to assume financial responsibility for the procedure yourself.

In most cases however, because it usually doesn’t take more than a few weeks to hear back from NHS regarding your application for a refund, it’s simply better to submit your application and wait for a reply. If they approve the procedure you can call Neuro Spine Riga that day and book your surgery. We will help you with all aspects of the refund process so you are never at a loss or make a misstep during the process.

Keep in mind as well that because spinal surgery at Neuro Spine Riga is so affordable you always have the option of paying for the procedure yourself. This way, even if your application is turned down, you are not out of options. Our experienced staff can provide helpful suggestions that should make the process work within your current budget.

Cost of Various Types of Spinal Surgery in Different European Cities

This chart illustrates the cost of having lumbar decompression surgery in various cities throughout Europe:

Here is the cost of lumbar microdiscectomy surgery in various European cities:

And here is the cost comparison of ACDF surgery in various European cities:

As you can see in every instance having your spinal surgery in Riga will save you not only time but a boatload of money when claiming back medical expenses abroad via NHS funding mechanisms. You may even be able to fund the procedure yourself if need be.

Note: With the exception of the Neuro Spine Riga the above cited costs represent the average cost of obtaining the specified surgical procedure at various private facilities in the cities listed. The actual cost at a particular clinic or hospital will likely differ.

Why is it so Much More Affordable in Riga?

When you are talking about working with an NHS surgeon in cities like London or Dublin must take into account the sky high property valuations, high taxes and decades of salary creep that all play a part in determining the cost of goods and services. A city like Riga is not burdened with these types of price raising expenses which means the basic cost of living is less and the cost of running a business or clinic is also less. This is not to say the quality of service you’ll receive is less. In fact just the opposite. The surgeons at Neuro Spine Riga are some of the most highly trained and respected in Northern Europe. You will experience zero drop off in quality when you have your surgery with us.

More About Riga

For the better part of the 20th century the Baltic States were sequestered behind the iron curtain like many of their neighbours. As time went on they faded in relevance in the minds of many western Europeans. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union the citizens of these vital, culturally important newly independent nations have worked diligently to reclaim their rightful place in the greater European narrative.

Today, Riga is a major tourist destination that plays host to more than 2.5 million visitors annually. Hundreds of thousands of these visitors arrive each year aboard the world’s most popular cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Cunard, P&O, Costa Cruises and many others. The city’s international airport welcomes in excess of 5 million passengers annually. That’s more than Belfast, Belgrade or Liverpool. But Riga is more than just a thriving tourist destination. It is also an increasingly popular destination for UK residents and others to go to receive high quality, affordable NHS treatment abroad.

A Capital of European Culture

In 2014 Riga was chosen as a European Capital of Culture. This important designation helped shine a spotlight on the many contributions the people who have lived and worked in Riga have made to the larger story of Europe. Of course, nearly everyone who visits Riga either for business or for NHS back pain surgery is drawn to the historic city centre where incomparable Art Nouveau and native Jugendstil architectural treasures dominate the landscape. This area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the few in this part of Northern Europe. Sprinkled amidst the architectural splendour are historical landmarks and world class art galleries as well as some of the finest restaurants on the continent.

Above and beyond this prestigious recognition and the architectural treasures that await the visitor in the historic centre of Riga, the city is home to several important EU offices and agencies. It also plays host to a range of international sporting events and can claim as its own important figures in global culture such as:

  • Former World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal
  • Mark Rothko, a towering figure in 20th century art and
  • Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the most important figures in the world of classical and modern dance over the past 50 years.


If you are looking for an alternative to the endless NHS queues consider having your spinal surgery at Neuro Spine Riga. Not only will you enjoy world class surgical care in our state of the art facility but our staff will stand beside you every step of the way when it comes to obtaining NHS reimbursement for lumbar decompression surgery, lumbar microdiscectomy surgery and ACDF surgery. So don’t wait. Contact our UK patient coordinator today and set yourself on a path toward a happier, healthier tomorrow.