Passport, boarding pass, sun block, and medical procedure. Why are so many holidaymakers adding surgery to their holiday checklist?
Medical tourism is a multi-billion pound industry—not only from the money spent on the medical procedure, but also hotel stays, transportation costs and all the other typical ‘holiday’ expenses. Florida, for example, has allocated millions of dollars to medical tourism, with over half of the money reserved for a grant program endorsing Florida as a favourable destination for both patients and medical conferences. As the US is the most expensive healthcare market in the world, the prices of the treatments aren’t negotiable—instead, Florida is promoting its hospitality culture, notably temperate climates and renowned tourist attractions (Disneyland, for one) whilst promoting the quality of its medical centres.
As there are a number of procedures that aren’t available on the NHS or have extensive waiting lists, medical tourism is sometimes the only choice for some. Fertility treatments and bariatric surgery are often sought after abroad, but also cosmetic treatments, as they're usually cheaper in cost than in the UK—breast implants in Poland cost £1,972, but in the UK they can cost up to £3,736.
It may seem like an ideal solution: saving money on a procedure, skipping NHS waiting lists with the added bonus of a holiday, but there are many important elements to consider before going under the knife abroad.
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Surgery is not a decision to be taken lightly, so investigate and compare as many clinics as possible—research the hospital, the surgeon, the procedure, speak to past patients, and consider recovery time. A number of clinics will pressure you to secure a sale, offering fantastic treatments with a limited-time-only offer. Don’t be coerced into making a snap decision, take your time and ask as many questions to ensure you won’t be compromising on your health. If you’re travelling abroad for a treatment that isn’t available in the UK, you need to consider why it isn’t available here. Visit gov.uk to check if the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulation Agency licenses the treatment in the UK, and whether the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence approves the treatment.
Considering the after-care of your procedure is especially important if you’re in another country. Depending on the type of procedure, you may not have much of a holiday if you’re recuperating, and if your recovery takes longer than expected there may be a delay in you travelling home. There’s also the check ups to consider—if you have to travel back to the country again for check ups, and if any complications arise post-treatment then you may not be able to receive help in the UK.
Insurance is also vital as most travel insurance policies will not cover you for your elective treatment, so be sure to find out what insurance the clinic or doctor has, and if it will cover you.
In the UK, a surgeon’s performance is strictly monitored and they will go through routine training and frequent appraisals. A surgeon must be registered to perform cosmetic surgery, and to be considered ‘highly qualified’ they should have carried out around 5,000 major operations. These regulations vary from country to country, and these fluctuating standards can result in treatment you weren’t expecting. Again, research in this area is key—ask your surgeon for their qualifications, how many times they have performed the operation, and ask to be put in touch with past patients.
There’s also the language barrier to consider. If your surgeon doesn’t speak English, ask if a translator will be provided, and also think of how your medical files will be documented.
If you are considering surgery abroad, think about your reasons for doing so. Make your decision based on the quality of the medical care, and not on how appealing the destination seems as a holiday.
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