We expose medical tourism pitfallsDo your homework before you go, urges Which?

20 March 2008

People who travel abroad for medical treatment should do their homework beforehand or risk problems later on, Which? warns today.

Our poll of almost 300 UK residents who went overseas for medical treatment in the past five years found that 18% had later run into problems.

This included a tummy tuck going septic and liposuction leading to one person’s stomach ‘leaking cellulite’.

The survey also found that 8% had to turn to the NHS for help in an emergency after having treatment abroad, and more than 25% didn't feel they'd received the follow-up care they needed.

Knee replacement

An undercover Which? researcher called medical tourism companies posing as a patient seeking a knee replacement.

He was told it wasn't a risky procedure and that he didn't need to see anyone medically qualified when he got home.

But this is wrong as half of patients need physiotherapy and all cases need to be reviewed.

Cheaper prices abroad mean more people are choosing to leave the UK for private surgery.

Dental implants

For example, a dental implant in Hungary costs £750 compared with £2,200 in the UK, while a tummy tuck that would cost £4,000 in the UK could be half the price in Poland.

But if you're planning on having medical treatment abroad, always check the doctor's qualifications and registration with a professional body.

You should also take into account potential problems, be clear about what the contract says in the event of a complication and remember that legal rights differ across countries.

Questions

Which? Editor Neil Fowler said: ‘Medical tourists must do their homework before jumping on the plane – and avoid rushing back too quickly - if they want to avoid potential problems.

‘Ask the right questions beforehand, speak to UK health professionals, and don't assume you'll have a safety net if things don't go according to plan.’