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NHS Now Paying For Treatment Abroad

Jul 10, 2008
Paying for medical insurance gives us a few advantages over waiting for our GP to refer us to consultants and waiting for hospital appointments. One of those options is that we can choose to have our treatment wherever we wish. Providing the healthcare establishment is officially recognised, we can ask our medical insurance to be paid to wherever we take out treatment. This beats the issue of the 'postcode lottery' of healthcare within the state system that we have at the moment where some authorities will pay for drugs and treatment that another would not.

Sometimes, a medical insurance company will even let you take up treatment options overseas. This has never been an option open to patients of the national health service - until now. Free treatment is now available abroad for NHS patients under new moves to lessen the waiting lists in the UK.

Health tourism is about to take off under new measures that don't necessarily mean we all have to take out medical insurance to get it. Medical professionals and hospitals throughout Europe will be subject to anyone from a member state who needs the care and, better still, it will be free under the NHS. In previous years, anyone who chose to take up better treatment in Europe would then have to take legal action against the NHS for reimbursement.

There is concern that the NHS will face a mounting bill if people take up this option frequently but it is money that would be spent eventually on the patients having the same treatment in the UK. It brings about the possibility that the waiting lists will virtually disappear and, most importantly, people's lives will be saved by receiving speedier care.

Under the new rules, patients would still have to pay up front for their treatment but as long as it cost no more than the UK's NHS costs, then it would be much easier to claim back. Travel and accommodation will have to be covered solely by the patient and would not be recoverable.

Hospital superbugs are much more prevalent in the UK, so there is the added advantage of not only avoiding them but hopefully bringing down the incidents of them too. To our shame, we also have poorer survival rates too. There is also the opposite effect of foreigners not being keen to sample our healthcare.

The way things stand at the moment, most Britons living in Europe rely on medical insurance to cover the cost of their healthcare and there is concern that they will now be charging everything to the NHS which will put extra strain on it. In one respect, this is a good sign that the government are actually listening to the people who have been voting with their feet and looking elsewhere for healthcare. It will also give them enough breathing space to re-think the alternatives.

Of course, doctors and consultants overseas will be able to impose their own restrictions on how people go about getting this care in order to have a degree of control and ensure their own people are seen to. Minor treatment will not need NHS permission but major operations costing hundreds or even thousands of pounds will, particularly if they need a stay in hospital.

At least, this way, the choice of good healthcare will be across the board and not limited to those with plenty of money.
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