Sunday, July 17, 2016
With holiday season in full swing, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the process of how to get medical treatment on holiday. Whilst getting ill on holiday is likely to be the last thing you want to think about, it’s good to be prepared for it just in case. Knowing how and where to seek medical assistance, along with how you can get help paying for upfront costs will give you peace of mind on holiday and help reduce the stress of being ill away from home.
The process for seeking medical treatment whilst abroad varies for UK residents depending on where you’re travelling. For example, if you’re travelling in Europe to countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, as a Briton you are entitled to get medical treatment for free or at a reduced cost with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Countries outside of the EEA can require you to pay the full price for treatments. However, the UK Government do have agreements with a number of non-EEA countries to provide health care to British holidaymakers abroad. How you go about receiving this healthcare, and the price you pay, will depend on where you’re going.
The best practice when you’re jetting off is to get prepared before you go. Make sure you take up-to-date documents, sufficient supplies for prescriptions, a valid EHIC card (if travelling within the EEA or Switzerland) and travel insurance.
The EHIC card is valid to use in all EEA countries and Switzerland, excluding The Channel Islands, Monaco, The Vatican, San Marino and The Isle of Man. With an EHIC card, you can receive medical treatments until you return home. You can also be treated for standard maternity care and prior medical conditions.
In addition to your EHIC Card, even when travelling within Europe, it is also a good idea to take out travel insurance. This will cover you for various eventualities whilst you’re away, including healthcare. Travelling outside of the EEA, you should always get comprehensive private travel insurance, making sure that the country you’re visiting and the activities you’re planning on doing are covered under your insurance policy.
If you don’t have travel insurance and/or an EHIC card, you could find yourself facing a large medical bill and will receive no reimbursement for the payments, so paying a little more for the right travel insurance could save you money and hassle in the long run.
Also in preparation for your trip, it’s worth making a note of the emergency services number to call and keep the details for your emergency contacts, pre-existing medical conditions, medication, allergies with your personal ID.
When you’re abroad in EEA countries or Switzerland, your EHIC card will give you access to either free or reduced cost treatment, but it isn’t valid for private healthcare. Make sure treatments abroad are in a public hospital, so that you can be reimbursed. For all territories outside of these areas, you will need to check with your travel insurance provider to see whether public and private healthcare can be reimbursed.
When it comes to getting treatment abroad, for emergency medical assistance in EEA countries or Switzerland you can call the 112 Emergency number for free. Other countries will have different numbers, so check these before you go.
Emergency treatments will be carried out at a hospital or emergency medical centre. If the UK has a healthcare agreement with this country, you should be able to get this treatment for free or at a reduced costs, but keep records of all receipts and payments so you can process your claims for reimbursement on your return to the UK.
It’s also possible to seek general medical treatments at doctors and dentists whilst you’re abroad, but you may be required to pre-arrange an appointment. If you are visiting a doctor or dentist, be sure to take your valid ID, EHIC card (if appropriate) and a record of your travel insurance policy. You may be expected to make an upfront payment or contribution for the service that can be reimbursed when you get home.
In terms of treating minor ailments or getting repeat prescriptions, you can visit pharmacies and get free or reduced cost prescriptions. If possible, you should take a receipt of your UK prescription with you as proof along with a valid ID and EHIC card.
You can also get help and advice with medical assistance from the British Embassy services, although they can’t provide you with financial assistance. Before you travel, make a note of the British Embassy number in the country you’re visiting and visit their website for any valid travel advice.
By being prepared before you go, you will know what to do if you fall ill and make sure you get the right treatment straight away.