Health tourists seeking cosmetic surgery abroad – including dental treatment – will be able to buy insurance to cover specifically against ‘mishaps’ for the first time ever.
PJ Hayman, a specialist travel insurer, has launched the first policy to cover medical bills arising from complications after cosmetic, dental or elective surgery abroad.
It has had to convince the scheme’s underwriters at AXA that it will not be covering ‘bodged operations by backstreet doctors’ and maintains that the ‘Free Spirit Travel for Treatment’ policy will cover only surgery undertaken in officially registered and regulated hospitals.
It’s estimated that up to 100,000 people a year travel from Britain for surgery in countries where prices are cheaper and waiting lists shorter.
The European Parliament is debating a directive that would allow patients to bypass their local NHS trusts and travel abroad for state-sponsored surgery for which previously they would have had to pay.
Peter Hayman, PJ Hayman’s managing director, said: ‘AXA weren’t happy. It has taken me some time to persuade underwriters to do it. It looks pretty onerous.
‘Travel insurance tends to cover medical emergencies, the unexpected happening. Here, we’re covering something that people are choosing to do medically and the consequences if it goes wrong. So, you are covering a totally different risk than of someone having a heart attack while on holiday.’
The scheme will not cover heart or cancer operations, but will cover most cosmetic procedures, including surgical enhancements and Botox.
Previously commenting on the popularity of dental tourim, Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, was quick to raise alarms.
He said: ‘It is a big concern that UK patients are so willing to travel abroad for dental treatment without being fully aware of the risks.
‘Not all dentists are as highly trained as those in the UK, where extensive training and strict examinations are undertaken to ensure they meet the high standards required and this also applies to foreign dentists practicing in the UK.
‘So-called dental holidays are presented as a cheap and hassle-free alternative to getting treatment in this country but we know from calls to our dental helpline that if things do go wrong then they are anything but.’