Medical tourism has always been known to be people from third world countries travelling to well developed countries for their high quality medical facilities and treatments. However, recently, it looks as though the tables have turned. With an increasing amount of Westerners, in particular Brits and Americans, travelling to poorer countries for treatment. More and more medical tourism companies are popping up across third and second world countries, including Serbia, Hungary, Thailand, Malaysia, and India. However, many aren't just offering the treatment on its own, they are also offering weekend break packages around the treatment, to make your trip more enjoyable. Many companies offer hotels, airport pickups and other luxury benefits, treating your trip as more of a holiday. Many seem to be choosing medical tourism as their option, as even with the holiday packages, the treatment is still cheaper than it would be at home.
Many people are using medical tourism in second and third world countries, as the private procedures are considerably cheaper than those in The UK, yet with incredibly high medical facilities and standards. Foreign medical centres can offer cheaper procedures which are often very expensive in The UK, if done privately, such as dentistry, weight loss, plastic surgery, fertility treatments, and cancer treatments. It has been reported that Western medical tourists can save around 50-75% if they were to go to Thailand for their medical treatment, and around 65-80% in Malaysia. They can offer these procedures for cheaper prices as costs such as rent, education fees, and insurance costs are normally much lower in foreign countries than inside the “developed world.” However, patients who do not use private health care in The UK, often find their motive to get treatment abroad is the waiting times. With NHS waiting times gradually worsening, people who are in constant pain, or who want their surgery done sooner rather than later, seem to be going overseas for it. Statistics show that the main reason for Brits travelling abroad for treatment is to bypass the waiting lists, however in The US, the main reason is cheaper treatment prices. Another big motive for many to get treatment done abroad is the cost and ease of travelling. With more and more airlines battling to provide us with the cheapest air ticket, it is making it far more feasible for regular people to access medical treatment abroad.
Legality is another big reason why many people fly abroad for surgeries and treatments. Many treatments, surgeries, and medication are not accessible in the UK, including many fertility treatments, seeing more and more people feel like their only option is to go overseas for their necessary treatment.
The NHS recommend that if you are considering going abroad for medical treatment, that you do plenty of research beforehand. Firstly, they advise that you talk to your GP about your treatment, as they can provide advice, support and explain the possible implications of your desired treatment. It is then advised that you research the company you will be going with, the doctors and their medical experience, reviews from previous customers, any language barriers, your aftercare, and how to make a complaint if something were to go wrong. They also state that they are not liable for ‘negligence’ or ‘failure’ of treatment. It is also urged that you have sufficient insurance, as you may need to take out specialist insurance, due to many standard travel insurance companies not covering you if you have planned to have treatment abroad. Going abroad for treatment means that you are also not covered by your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It is encouraged that if you are looking at having medical treatment abroad, that you ensure you have sufficient funds for it and plan for any check-up trips in the future, as EHIC’s are only for emergency medical treatment that is mandatory when away.
In 2014, The University of York reported that at least 63,000 British nationals travel overseas in order to obtain medical treatment each year. However, their study concluded that many medical tourists are traveling abroad without sufficient knowledge and understanding of what they are embarking on, and the risks involved.