A holiday in hospital: would you go abroad for your treatment?

Annie Shaw and Julian Knight ask if you should join the burgeoning ranks of surgical and dental tourists

More and more of us are choosing to go overseas for dental and medical treatment. Cheap flights and the prospect of recuperating in sunnier climes are two incentives but more fundamental, says medical search directory Treatment Abroad, is a desire to avoid NHS waiting lists but save on the expense of private care.

"There is no doubt the main driver is cost," says Keith Pollard, managing director of Treatment Abroad, "coupled with the difficulty of getting NHS treatment."

He adds that public fears over MRSA – Britain has a poor record for hospital infections – are also a factor.

Research by Treatment Abroad shows that up to 50,000 people from Britain travelled overseas for medical assistance in 2006. The number is expected to reach around 75,000 this year. What's more, RevaHealth, a dental-tourism company based in Ireland but offering access to treatment worldwide, claims that up to 35,000 people will go overseas from the UK for dental treatment this year.

When you consider some of the savings on offer, the attraction is easy to see. For example, dental implants for someone who has lost all their teeth through gum disease would cost up to £50,000 in Britain but just £16,500 in Hungary, including travel and accommodation. Medical check-ups can also cost a fraction of the price in the UK.

Surgery is generally cheaper overseas as well. A hip replacement, which can cost as much as £15,000 if you go private in Britain, would cost £5,000 in Germany or £3,600 in India.

Over the long term, private medical help overseas can work out cheaper than paying private medical insurance premiums to obtain the same treatment when it is needed in the UK.

But, of course, it is not all about cost. Patients have to be sure when they go abroad that everything is safe and above board. The phrase caveat emptor (buyer beware) certainly applies, even according to those trying to encourage Britons to go overseas.

"Ultimately, the responsibility is on the consumer to ensure they choose the right dental or medical treatment," says Philip Boyle, marketing director at RevaHealth.

If something goes wrong with a medical or dental procedure in a foreign country, getting compensation could be tricky. If the treatment is booked through a UK-based intermediary – a specialist medical-tourism firm such as Treatment Abroad – then customers should be able to pursue a claim through the UK courts. However, as Mr Pollard explains, that is not the case for people going direct to overseas institutions: "If you pay them for treatment, you are in their jurisdiction. If you have a problem, you have to go to the local authorities or courts in that country for redress."

As for spotting a good hospital from a bad one, there is plenty of background information available on the internet. For example, RevaHealth's website contains accreditation details for all its recommended medical facilities.

However, consumers could feel bewildered by long lists, and in such cases, says Mr Pollard, they should look for an internationally recognised accreditation such as that awarded by the JCI (Joint Commission International).

In order to gain JCI approval, a hospital is inspected and has to show high standards of cleanliness and care. Medical facilities with the accreditation should also have robust safety procedures for dealing with blood products to prevent the transference of diseases such as HIV.

Nevertheless, the British Medical Association (BMA) urges people to do their homework before travelling abroad for treatment.

"First, people should speak to their GP and check they are well enough to travel," says a BMA spokeswoman. "They also need to get information from their GP about such things as allergies and previous operations and pass it to the hospital before the procedure."

According to Mr Pollard, it is a relatively straightforward process for medical records to be transferred from the UK to overseas institutions. "A referral letter for private treatment should be obtained from your doctor and this should be passed on to the hospital in question," he says.

The procedure for transferring dental records to a foreign practice is similarly clear-cut. "A panoramic x-ray of your mouth can be supplied by your dentist on a disc and emailed to the foreign dentist of choice," says Mr Boyle at RevaHealth.

In addition, all new patients have to fill in an extensive medical questionnaire on arrival at a hospital or practice abroad. And some foreign institutions have UK "outreach" clinics offering initial examinations and aftercare.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

    Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

    Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

    £18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing