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Number of Britons travelling abroad for medical treatment up

More and more Britons are travelling overseas for medical treatment.

25 April, 2007

Overseas trips for cosmetic surgery, other surgeries and post-surgery relaxation are worth around £60 million a year, reveals a new research conducted by market analyst Mintel.

The so-called medical tourism was initially spurred by the fact that prices for cosmetic surgery are lower abroad than in the United Kingdom.

A quarter of Britons would now consider recuperating overseas after an illness or surgery, and 12% would consider having surgery abroad because of lower prices, says the Mintel’s Health and Wellness Holidays report.

Figures from the research show that Britons took 205,000 health and wellness holidays in 2006.

Overseas medical tourism enjoys the largest share of the United Kingdom’s spending on health and wellbeing breaks. Britons also spent around £25 million in 2006 on going abroad for yoga holidays, holistic healing, health farms, beauty treatments and spa visits.

The spending rose to £50 million for similar types of breaks taken within the United Kingdom, with men as interested in health and well-being treatments as women.

According to Mintel’s senior travel analyst Richard Cope, the demand for medical tourism is on the rise. This sector is a thriving industry since “a growing number of well-off baby-boomers take their health needs into their own hands and pursue the elixir of eternal youth.”

It is estimated that Britons spent £135 million in 2006 on these types of breaks, at home and abroad.

The entire market for health and wellness holidays, including overseas medical tourism, is expected to go up by 150% by 2011, forecasts Mintel.

Mintel said that while most travel companies were wary of the risks of surgical treatment, its research found that 12% of British adults would consider having an operation abroad because it was cheaper.

A surgery costing thousands of pounds in the United Kingdom could be just a few hundred in countries such as India, though patients have to pay travel expenses.

However, the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has warned that patients should consider factors other than cost when choosing where to have treatment.

Dr Charles Saunders, deputy chairman of the BMA Scotland’s consultants committee, says: “What we would really like to see is the NHS providing people with essential care without them having to travel. But if people do choose to go abroad they need to be sure of the quality of treatment they will receive. It may be more difficult to find information to check out the surgeons and clinics where they are treated.”

Dr Saunders said it could also be unclear who would pick up the bill if something went wrong during an operation. This could mean that cheap treatment suddenly runs into thousands of pounds if further care is needed.

People also need to consider, warns Dr Saunders, whether the staff of the hospital will speak good enough English to be able to communicate.



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