Looks like it is time for impatient patients to travel abroad rather than wait for weeks or months to get treated for their ailments. Recently, a woman won the right to claim compensation from the NHS for a hip replacement surgery done abroad. In yet another case, a 63-year-old British woman who traveled elsewhere gave birth to a baby, after prenatal diagnostic tests confirmed absence of any genetic disorder.
A recent case that stirred controversy was the one involving Yvonne Watts, who got her hip replacement surgery in France, tired of waiting for surgery in UK. She had claimed the amount she had paid for the surgery (£3,900) from Bedford Primary Care Trust. The court apparently ruled that she could claim the money if she could prove the delay in provision of treatment.
Such legal decisions should be made on the basis of the merits of the treatment and the condition of the patient. Owing to such case that have caught public attention, the waiting times of patients registered with the NHS are coming down.
If only the Government reaches its target of 18 weeks (from the time of referral to provision of treatment) by the end of 2008, then perhaps the need for NHS patients to travel abroad for medical treatment would be drastically reduced.
One reason behind the increasing inclination to medical tourism is also the reduced cost associated with cosmetic surgery, infertility treatment (more specifically, IVF), orthopedic surgeries such as knee and hip replacement surgeries in other countries compared to NHS costs. Countries such as India, South Africa, Malaysia, Eastern Europe and Thailand are particularly enjoying the growth of the medical tourism industry.