Looking elsewhere for healthcare

According to recent research by Which? Magazine, a third of the NHS patients would consider going abroad for treatment paid for by the NHS. The findings show that if people do go abroad for medical treatment they would need a range of information to help them make informed decisions about their treatment options.


90 per cent of people believe the NHS should provide information and advice for the whole process, and 97 per cent say they would need information about standards of care and what to do if something went wrong before they decided to go abroad for medical treatment.
    
NHS patients researching information about treatment options can easily find all they need to about travelling to the EU for treatment by going to the Treatment Abroad website. www.treatmentabroad.com is a vast online resource full of essential and extensive information and advice about available treatments, costs and facilities overseas.

Keeping you informed
The free Treatment Abroad Guide to Medical Tourism has invaluable information about all aspects of medical tourism. Treatment Abroad, provides potential health tourists with patient testimonials and patient feedback in its ‘ratings and reviews’ section and there is also information about Treatment Abroad’s Code of Practice for Medical Tourism.
    
Self-paying patients can contact clinics and hospitals through the Treatment Abroad website or there are a number of companies that have been set up to facilitate and help patients organise travel and medical care within the EU. These companies work closely with surgeons and practitioners throughout Europe and the rest of the world and will set up travel and accommodation, as well as organising treatment for patients.
    
Keith Pollard, managing director of Treatment Abroad says: “It is essential that NHS patients, as with self-paying medical tourists, do as much research as they can before deciding and booking treatment abroad. The Treatment Abroad website has a vast amount of information to help NHS patients make the right choice about treatment and destinations.”

Medical tourism
As increasing numbers of NHS patients start travelling within the EU for healthcare it is also vital that those working in the field of healthcare and hospital management are informed about what is going on in the fast moving medical tourism sector. The recently re-launched International Medical Tourism Journal, www.imtjonline.com, provides an insight into medical tourism and is an online resource for health professionals looking to keep up to date with events and news about medical tourism.
    
The updated IMTJ site provides a wide range of content that includes a weekly news section, feature articles and a directory of medical tourism providers. It is aimed at healthcare professionals and businesses from within all sectors of the medical travel and medical tourism industry.
    
The IMTJ has a website and an e-newsletter is sent out weekly to subscribers. The website is constantly updated with news and information from around the world and is read by, and contributed to, by a cross-section of healthcare professionals.
    
As well as providing news and information about medical tourism the IMTJ site has been developed into an extensive business-to-business resource for the medical travel and medical tourism industry and brings information about all aspects of medical travel into one place on the web.

Sharing views
There is a forum for industry professionals to have their say, a blog and a patient review section. There is also an up-to-date resource area with information about new and recommended books, relevant publications, research papers, latest statistics, government guidelines, white papers and other useful links.
    
There is a Marketplace section which provides an extensive business-to-business directory which profiles companies and organisations offering services to the industry. This will include information about trade associations, agencies, conferences and events, education and training, agencies, consultants, technology and internet services, insurance, PR and marketing, translators and worldwide assistance, air ambulance and repatriation services.
    
Nicola Walton, managing editor of the IMTJ says: “The IMTJ gives medical professionals and healthcare businesses and suppliers access to a one-stop resource of information and advice about news, events and services in the medical tourism sector not available elsewhere on the web and is an opportunity for industry insiders to communicate with each other about the issues facing those involved in this fast moving sector.”
 
Case study: Belgium
Some self-paying patients seeking to escape from long NHS waiting lists and the worries about MRSA and C.difficile infection are choosing to travel to Belgium for treatment. NHS patients are expected to do the same. Like France and Germany it has a reputation for high quality care, excellent surgical standards, and coupled with the low cost of surgery and close proximity to the UK it has become a popular EU destination for health tourists.
    
There are no waiting lists in Belgium, surgical costs are considerably cheaper and the country has a well-deserved reputation as being one of the leading destinations in the world for clinical excellence. In addition, standards are high for surgical practice and after care, risk of secondary infection is extremely low and the majority of medical staff speak English.

Patient stories
Mr S. from Scotland, contacted the Centre Neurochirurgical de Bruxelles through the Private Healthcare UK website seeking treatment for left leg radicular pain he had been experiencing. He had waited months to be seen by a physiotherapist in the UK, and for a lumbar CT spine scan to rule out a disk herniation. Centre Neurochirurgical arranged hospital admission within 15 days in order to have a lumbar MRI scan done. This demonstrated a voluminous left L4-L5 disk herniation, and he was operated on the very next day by Dr Frederic Collignon. The surgical procedure went well and the patient could walk without pain the day after the surgery. He came to Brussels by plane, stayed four days in the hospital, with his wife, and the overall cost was 5,230 Euros.
    
Mrs J, aged 70 from Devon needed a knee replacement, and had waited some time for a diagnosis at her local NHS hospital and was told she would have a ten month wait for NHS surgery. She researched her options online and decided to travel to Belgium for treatment with Direct Healthcare, a medical tourism travel facilitator. The surgery was arranged quickly, was considerably cheaper than if she had gone privately in the UK and the patient is very pleased with how well the whole experience went. Her husband went with her and stayed in guest accommodation in the hospital in West Flanders where the surgery was carried out.

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