I bet you haven't heard about the EU directive on cross border healthcare.
This is a little known directive that gives all EU nationals the right to obtain healthcare services in any EU state, as long as they are entitled to the same services in your own country, and as long as they are not able to obtain such services within a reasonable amount of time at home.
This could mean that if somebody is able to get a hospital in the UK to do the surgery before the one in spain, and they don't have relatives here to help with your after care but you have in the UK, they could be entitled to have the surgery there.
Here is a real life example:
This of course is not publicized, as nobody wants hordes of other country citizens filling up their hospitals..
But this directive exists since 2011, but the deadline to implement it is october 2013.
The EU directive on cross border healthcare has many complex and detailed rules and regulations. However, it is possible to summarise the rules for both citizens and countries.
Rules for Citizens
Residency: To be entitled to cross border healthcare, you must be a resident of a country within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Local provision: In order for cross border healthcare to be funded, it must be available in your home state as part of the standard healthcare package available to all citizens. Local commissioners will set out what treatment is covered under each state system.
Undue delay: Cross border healthcare must be funded if there is undue delay in providing the same treatment locally. The European Court of Justice defined undue delay as a waiting time that "exceeds the period which is acceptable in the light of an objective medical assessment". This means that such judgements should be based on medical assessments, not just on arbitrary time based targets.
Reimbursement: The cost of cross border healthcare will only be reimbursed up to the cost of the treatment in the home state. States are not obliged to pay for costs in excess of the cost of treatment in the home state and you are not allowed to profit from having cheaper treatment in another state. The costs of travel and accommodation are not generally reimbursed.
I know these look like many requirements, but it could mean hope for older expats living here with no relatives and a surgery in the horizon.
Here is a very good guide on the directive it is written from the perspective of someone living in the UK, but can be applied to any EU citizen