The woman has spent the past year in hospital receiving treatment for a severe brain injury. She cannot be moved to Sweden for treatment as she is not listed or folkbokförd in Sweden’s population register, according to The Guardian, who reported that her family wished for her to remain anonymous.
Her British husband, who described the situation to The Guardian as “shameful”, has tried to return her to Sweden so the couple and their 12-year-old son can be closer to his wife’s mother and siblings.
However, she is unable to walk or talk, and must physically be in the country for her husband to re-register her as a Swedish resident at the Tax Agency.
Access to Swedish healthcare is determined by country of residence rather than citizenship, so Swedish citizens officially resident in the UK do not receive any special treatment over other UK residents.
Can Swedish citizens living in the UK be treated in Sweden for free?
This means that Swedes living in the UK (and other UK residents, regardless of citizenship) can access “necessary treatment” in Sweden for the same cost as Swedish residents if they are in the country temporarily, although this does not apply if the purpose of the trip to Sweden is to access Swedish healthcare.
UK residents, and Swedish citizens resident in the UK, are eligible for “planned treatment” (treatment where the purpose of the trip to Sweden is to access healthcare) in some circumstances, such as if they can provide an S2 certificate approving healthcare in another country, a certificate showing their right to healthcare or medical insurance in Sweden, or a certificate showing that they live in Sweden (for people who live in Sweden without a personal number, for example).
If they cannot provide any of these documents, they must pay the full cost of treatment themselves, unless they formally move to Sweden and are registered in the Swedish population register – something which can only be done upon arrival in Sweden.
The Swedish woman is therefore trapped in a situation where she cannot be transferred to a Swedish hospital directly from the UK without first arriving in Sweden to register residency – a process which can take a few weeks.
She is currently in a high-dependency unit in London, according to The Guardian, and needs constant care due to her condition.
‘Trapped between two wholly incompatible and inflexible systems’
Helen Hayes, the family’s local MP in the UK, who has been assisting them for some months, described the case to The Guardian as “a terrible tragedy”, which had left the woman and her family “trapped between two wholly incompatible and inflexible systems”.
She has contacted the UK’s Europe affairs minister Leo Docherty appealing for a meeting between British and Swedish officials.
“As this is truly an exceptional case, this will require exceptional actions by both the UK government and the Swedish government, as well as by the NHS and Swedish health professionals,” she told The Guardian.
The woman’s husband has been shocked by Sweden’s refusal to allow an exception to the rules.
“I’ve been with [her] a long time and been to Sweden many times and I was under the impression that Sweden was a compassionate western liberal democracy,” he told The Guardian.
“I am very down about this. I feel this is shameful. [She] is very Swedish and, in many ways, she really loves her country and loves to go back and spend summers there. We had been making plans to retire there in the next year or so and the fact that they’ve so severely let her down is quite awful,” he added.
He has contacted 349 Swedish MPs, The Guardian reports, receiving only one response. In Sweden, it is illegal for MPs or ministers to intervene in or comment on the actions of public authorities in individual cases, but there is no law prohibiting them to reply to correspondence.
He has also contacted the European Commission and the United Nations office of the High Commission for Human Rights who were unable to help.