Going abroad for a medical procedure, you might want to reconsider
At the start of 2018, NHS officials requested that every hospital in the country cancel all non-urgent surgery until February at the very earliest. With many patients becoming furious and frustrated, they are turning to private medical care for a solution, but this does come with high costs as private medical care isn’t easily affordable. People who do not have health insurance are increasingly paying up to £14,880 for operations such as a hip or knee replacement or cataract removal.
The new figures from the Office for National Statistics show a 198%* rise in trips abroad from the UK for medical reasons between 2014 and 2016 from 48,190 to 143,996. Experts said lengthening waiting times for surgery - particularly hip, knee and cataract operations - and cutbacks to fertility treatment - were fuelling the rise. Trips abroad aren’t only due to reduced waiting times but also reduced costs.
In Turkey and Bulgaria, the cost of going private for knee surgery is between £3,000 and £5,000 but is upwards of around £11,000 in the UK. The temptation to travel abroad for the treatment is very high, especially If you are on an 18-week waiting list on the NHS!
But when it comes to going abroad for a medical procedure, just how much cover, if any, will you have?
The short answer is that you are unlikely to have any cover at all. If you are planning on getting medical treatment abroad then you will not be able to claim against any travel insurance policy which you have purchased, if something should go wrong. Almost all travel insurance policies will not cover you for planned treatment abroad, so you will need to obtain specialist cover. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not cover going abroad for medical treatment and is only intended for emergency treatment that you need whilst you are away.
The NHS website states that: “If you're thinking about having medical treatment in another European country, it's important to understand how it works and the risks involved. However, you may be able to access NHS-funded healthcare in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland if you fulfil certain eligibility criteria. There are two possible routes. The criteria vary depending on the access route.”
Essentially the advice is to go by the book and request that you are referred to a country’s medical service rather than seek your own medical treatment privately, unless you have health insurance that can provide full cover.
*Source: International Passenger Survey, Office for National Statistics