Number of Britons travelling
abroad for medical treatment up
More and more Britons are
travelling overseas for medical
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
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
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
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.