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Medical Tourism - Destination - United Kingdom

General Informations

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The most popular destination for British medical tourists is India due to the Commonwealth. For fertility treatment, the Czech Republic is a popular choice and for combining treatment with a holiday stay, Turkey is frequently selected. The most common reasons why British people go abroad for treatment are reduced waiting times, higher quality, cost savings and availability of treatment. The long waiting times and the infection rates in hospitals are the largest problems facing the UK population. Therefore, many British patients are looking to travel for treatment. This makes the British population the second largest outbound medical tourism flow. The significance of medical tourism has been reflected in the introduction of the medical tourism insurance from PJ Hayman, and the increase in international cooperation between UK based companies and foreign medical facilities.

United Kindom
LocationWestern Europe surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea, bordering the Republic of Ireland
CapitalLondon
Biggest cities (population)London (7,172,091), Birmingham (970,892), Glasgow (629,501)
Inhabitants61,113,205
Politicsparliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
ReligionChristianity (71.8%), atheism (15.1%), Islam (2.8%), Hinduism (1.0%), other (9.3%)
CurrencyPound Sterling (GBP) = € 1.10729
GDP€ 1,490,118 million, 3.2% of world’s GDP
Official language(s)English
Climateoceanic, with winter average temperature of 4°C and 20°C in summer
Time zoneGMT +0, summer time GMT +1
Happy Planet Index (HPI)74

Cultural Aspects

General Culture

British culture is powerful as one can see British influence, especially on former colonised countries, such as language and driving habits. Nowadays, the UK is multinational as there are many immigrants from various countries. In general, Brits are warm and open people with a very patriotic and traditional mindset who are also well known for the pints in the local pubs. British cuisine ranges from traditional fish and chips to Sunday roast dinners.

Safety

The UK’s GPI ranking is 35, which means that the country is considered safe. Nevertheless, there has been a recent increase in hooliganism and the terrorist attacks in London have also led to an increase in security measures.

Infrastructure

In total there are 506 airports in the country. In addition, there is an extensive rail and road network throughout the UK. Furthermore, one can use the channel tunnel to travel to mainland Europe. In general, it is very convenient to travel from the UK to European countries and the prices are reasonable.

Health Care System

WHO ranking28
Physicians per 10,000 population23.0 (1997)
Nurses per 10,000 population128.0 (1997)
GDP spent on health care8.4% (2006)
Education period of doctors5 or 6 years and then 2 years of foundation training
Education period of specialistsadditional 4 to 6 years

Health Care Providers

The UK’s health care system is called the National Health Service (NHS) and is a medical system that is financed through taxes. This means that British citizens are entitled to treatment regardless of their income levels. Although there are small differences such as the charge for prescriptions between the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish version, the general concept is the same. Private health care runs parallel to the NHS and is generally used as a topup to NHS services with 20% of non-emergency treatment being carried out in the private sector.

In the UK, there is often cooperation between the private and public health care providers with the NHS paying the private hospitals fees for patients who have waited more than 18 weeks (6% of the NHS budget). This is because the public hospitals run at occupancy of 100% whereas the occupancy of the private hospitals tends to be about 60%. The dividing line between public and private health care is made even less distinct by the presence of about 3,000 ‘pay beds’ in the National Health Service, about half of which are in dedicated private patient units.

Insurance

In the UK, public insurance is not necessary as any citizen is allowed treatment on the NHS. Private insurance is either purchased individually or provided by the employers (although, mostly only for key figures in the workplace). For those insured by their employers, they have the option to pay extra to cover their families too. Those with private insurance are also welcome to use NHS services if they wish. Only around 8% of the population of the UK has private health care insurance.

The UK has just introduced the first medical tourism insurance that is provided by PJ Hayman (a specialist travel insurer). It will cover people against mishaps when undergoing surgery abroad for up to £ 5 million (€ 5.5 million). It will not cover treatment that is not performed at a recognised hospital, for cardio-treatment or treatment in oncology.

Reforms/Policies

Since Gordon Brown (the former Prime Minister) came into power, he has made several reforms surrounding the NHS. The first one is to focus more on preventative medicine in order to cut future treatment. This has meant that a new law has been introduced allowing over 40’s to access free medical check-ups every five years. The second is to tackle obesity and related diseases such as diabetes and cardio-vascular issues.

In addition, reforms are also underway to make the NHS a more personal service. This is to be done through increasing doctors opening hours to evenings and weekends. This should also increase the amount of people who undergo regular check-ups and also helps build on the idea of more preventative treatment. Waiting times are also being tackled with plans from December 2008 to ensure that no person waits longer than 18 weeks from the date that a patient is referred to the hospital to the time of the operation or treatment.

General Medical Tourism Information

Annually 70,000 British people go abroad as medical tourists spending a total of USD 237 million (€ 158 million). It is thought that 43% left for dental reasons, 29% for cosmetic and plastic surgeries, 18% for orthopaedic treatment and 10% for fertility purposes. Currently, the UK is one of the most popular countries from which people leave for medical purposes and the industry is predicted to grow at a rate of 25% annually.

It is worth mentioning that within the UK, especially in London, inbound medical tourism has been a long-standing tradition with rich patients from the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Cyprus and Greece producing 30% of the revenue for private clinics.

Facilitators/Cooperation

The largest existing cooperation offering policies to cover treatment is between the insurance company BUPA and Wockhardt Hospitals in India. Wockhardt Hospitals are also in talks with the National Health Service (NHS) about outsourcing some of the British patients to India. In addition, BUPA are also working with Max India Ltd., a company specialising in health care. There are also many medical facilitators who work as third parties to assist medical tourists.

Flows

With regard to medical tourism, the British tend to opt for India due to the old connections from the Commonwealth. The Czech Republic is also a popular option for fertility treatment. Turkey is a common choice as it is also a good holiday location.

Reasons

  • Waiting times: UK citizens can expect to wait 8 months for eye surgery, 11 months for a hip replacement and 12 months for a knee replacement. 313 Norwich Union, bank and insurance company, have just released a waiting list guide.
  • Quality: as the government aims to cut waiting times, they are also cutting the quality to deal with the demand. One in ten NHS hospitals has seen a rise in infection rates since 2008.
  • Cost savings: British people tend to select Belgium and other destinations for cosmetic and plastic surgery due to the reduced cost.
  • Availability: women over 40 in the UK are not eligible for free fertility treatment on the NHS, and private clinics are reluctant to encourage this. Therefore, women often seek treatment in countries such as Czech Republic where this is possible.

Conclusion

The largest problem facing the general population of the UK when they need medical treatment are the long waiting times and the infection rates in hospitals. As these are rather serious issues, the British account for the second largest outbound flow for medical tourism. In order to bypass these, many citizens are looking to other countries for medical treatment, which has been reflected in the introduction of the medical tourism insurance from PJ Hayman, and the increase in international cooperation between UK based companies and foreign medical facilities.

Price Chart (in €uro)

TreatmentAverage Price
Cardiac bypass43,396
Gastric bypass11,458
Knee replacement11,023
Hip replacement9,353
Hip resurfacing9,061
Botox treatment124
Breast augmentation5,010
Facelift7,683
Liposuction3,674
Dental implants2,338
Rhinoplasty4,008
Lasik eye surgery1,336

Note: All prices are estimates, and may vary widely from source to source depending on services included in the estimate (i.e. doctor’s fees, hospitalisation, administration costs or the patient’s age and medical history). Due to non-disclosure strategies of the various locations, it was not possible to make a clear separation between those factors. All prices given for the specific facilities have been provided by the hospitals/clinics themselves via email or telephone contact. The prices are given in Euros (€).

N/A means either that treatment are not available in the specific hospital, that a price estimation cannot be found or that the medical facility did not disclose the information. For the average prices, printed literature has been used before researching sources on the internet.