If we based our figures on the quantity of people who came here last year, 6.5 million people could have put themselves at unnecessary risk.
The British Embassy have today reiterated their message to those who live here to take all measures possible to make sure visiting friends and family have contracted travel insurance before coming over for a visit, and also have an up to date EHIC International medical card.
Recent changes to the Health System have highlighted the financial situation of the Spanish Health Service, and whilst medical practitioners may have been willing to treat visiting holidaymakers without being too officious in the past, new legislation has been designed to ensure that Spain will be fully reimbursed for the expenses its Health System incurs, should it be required to give medical assistance to visiting holidaymakers, and attitudes have hardened.
But it's not just these changes to the Health System that's worrying consular services, but the fact that the number of Brits needing hospital care has increased dramatically during the last 2 years.
Last year consular staff in Spain received reports of more than 1,100 cases of Brits ending up in hospital, making up nearly one third of the total cases worldwide.
This represents 20 hospitalisations in Spain every week, and although some were attributable to excess drinking, "balcony incidents" and road accidents in holiday resorts, the figures also include those of visitors who suffered heart attacks,serious strokes or had accidents whilst here on holiday.
As is only to be expected, figures in the major package destination holiday resorts reflect a larger youth audience, but the number of incidents has been increasing at an alarming rate, Mallorca, for example, seeing a 132% increase in hospitalisations during the last 2 years, and Ibiza a rise of 40% over the same time period.
Brits don´t think they need travel insurance to pop over and see Mum
The truth of the matter is that many Brits just don´t think about contracting travel insurance when coming to Spain, particularly if visiting a family member. Low cost flights and the familiarity of Spain mean that popping over to see Mum doesn´t fall into the same mental bracket as booking a ski-ing holiday, where the need to contract medical insurance is so much more obvious.
Yet there´s just as much chance of slipping on wet tiles by a poolside and being seriously injured as being mown down by an out of control snowboarder.
The Minister for Consular Services, Jeremy Browne, said: “Whilst the prospect of ending up in a foreign hospital may be the last thing on your mind as you head overseas for a summer break, sometimes things do go wrong on holiday and many people deeply regret not taking out comprehensive travel insurance. We also witness many cases where people have invalidated their policy – perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped. Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home. I urge anyone heading overseas this summer to research their destination, take out comprehensive travel insurance, and carefully check the small print of their policy.”
It's a horrifying fact that nearly half of all Brits (48%-can you believe it) do not understand that without travel insurance they will have to pay their own medical bills and the costs of returning them back to the UK if things go wrong. There have been well documented cases in the British press about appeals to help Brits get home as they have to travel by land in an ambulance as their medical condition prevents them from flying, which costs thousands.
And how many of us have a spare 10,000 quid in our spare change to help a family member get home?
It´s also important to remind visitors to ensure they have an UP TO DATE EHIC CARD. This is free, and without one, visitors can be asked to pay to see a doctor. The ed has witnessed holiday families having to pay more than 80 euros in cash before seeing a doctor to seek treatment for a mystery rash, and the receptionist in the health centre on this largely ex-pat urbanisation had a thick wad of forms for other visitors who had been "stung" by the charges as well as by a mystery insect.
The Consular Services ask both visitors to Spain, and British residents who may be hosting them, to remember three key things:
• Buy comprehensive travel insurance – avoid a life-changing bill
• Read the small print – don’t invalidate your policy by mistake
• Get an EHIC card – it’s a ‘holiday essential’ for any state medical treatment you might need while visiting, but it doesn’t cover everything.
The total number of consular assistance cases in Spain last year rose more than 8% to 5405 cases. These included 1105 hospitalisations (up 8%) and 1909 arrests (up 9%)
Some 13.6 million Britons visited Spain last year, so if the statistics quoted in the survey are right, this means over 6.5 million people didn´t know they would have to pay for their own medical treatment and repatriation if they didn´t have insurance.
SO BASED ON THESE FIGURES, DON'T ASSUME THEY ALREADY KNOW: IF YOU HAVE FAMILY COMING TO VISIT THIS YEAR, SEND THEM THIS LINK!!!!
For details on how the Foreign Office can help if you get into trouble abroad, visit www.fco.gov.uk/travel
Source: The figures come from the annual British Behaviour Abroad report for the period 1 April 2011 - 31 March 2012 and quotes from the British Embassy.
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