Getting medical treatment abroad because it’s cheaper, shorter waiting times, or any other reason might be a good idea, but what happens when something goes wrong?
Above 70,000 people in the UK fly to other countries to either bypass NHS waiting lists or garner as high as £10,000 in savings. A top medical lawyer, however, warns that it could be muddy to get doctors and clinics answering in court when things don’t go as planned.
Aside from some clinics having clauses in their contracts that allow only suing in home countries, some negligence laws may not be as expansive and any payment rewarded is lower. During consultations patients should inquire about doctor’s insurance and if it covers action in their own country.
Recent data from the Patients Association reveal that NHS waiting times for a list of non-urgent procedures increased by 6% last year. Waiting for a hip operation is now 99.2 days, while hernia surgery can take 78 days (from 70 in 2010).
A study from medical tourism advice site Treatment Abroad says that 40% of medical tourists travel for cosmetic surgery, 33% for dental treatment, and 10% for obesity surgery. Among the most travelled places, Belgium holds the highest record for cosmetic surgery and obesity surgery, followed by Hungary for dental treatment. Runner-ups are Poland, Czech Republic, and Turkey.
Belgium gained its popularity in the UK because people can go by train as a cheaper alternative to flying, which is preferred by post-surgery travellers.
Anita Jennings went to Belgium for breast reduction since she was having neck and back pains. In addition, she chose Belgium not only because the operation was cheaper there (£3,900 for surgery, travel, and accommodations, as opposed to £6,000 in the UK) but also because she can go there by rail.
The savings of going to another country for treatment isn’t petty. It can amount from as much as £2,000 to about £10,000, depending on the procedure.
Although typical travel insurance won’t cover medical tourism hiccups, there are a few special policies that cover extras like medical treatment for complications, minor accommodation costs, and travel expenses.