British holidaymakers reluctant to seek medical treatment abroad
A new survey released today by the Department of Health reveals that while almost 50% of British travellers have become ill or injured on holiday, 35% of these have delayed, often essential, medical treatment until they return home.
The main reasons given for not seeking treatment abroad are concerns about the potential cost and lack of travel insurance.
The survey also revealed that many travellers have admitted to buying treatment over the counter that they do not understand due to language barriers and unfamiliar terms.
However, British travellers are putting themselves needlessly at risk as a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle them to reduced cost or free healthcare in most European countries. The research showed that nearly three in five people claim to have an EHIC, but 68% of these don't know when it expires.
Almost 3.3m EHICs will have expired by the end of March 2009. Travellers with out-of-date EHICs who require medical treatment will have to cover the cost themselves or claim on their travel insurance.
Dr Hilary Jones, GMTV's resident GP says: "I'm concerned that so many holidaymakers are needlessly putting their health at risk, when a valid EHIC will provide them with access to reduced cost or even free treatment. By delaying treatment until you return home, you are potentially allowing a condition to worsen in the meantime.
"Nobody should ever take any medicines, even those sold over the counter in a pharmacy, if they don't understand the labelling, dosing guidance or warnings on side-effects. This is reckless behaviour and could lead to serious harm.
"If you're travelling in Europe, it is vital that you carry a valid EHIC, as well as comprehensive travel insurance. The last thing you want to be thinking about when you're on holiday is paying unnecessary medical bills, which could cost thousands of pounds.
"The EHIC card will give you peace of mind that you'll be looked after if something does go wrong – but only if it is in date. Check your EHIC now to ensure it has not expired – it's quick and easy to apply for a new card."
"The EHIC card should be advertised more. Patients from abroad have good knowledge of our NHS being free but we have little or no knowledge of the health system and how it operates in Europe." - V Henry