03 December 2006
Fed up with NHS waiting lists, dirty hospitals and shoddy services, hundreds of British taxpayers are travelling to Europe and beyond for operations.
As a GP in Kenya, Premhar Shah of the Medical Tourist Company used to shuttle patients to South Africa and India. “When I came here [the UK], I read about long waiting lists and thought I should give the business a try,” he says. “People here are frustrated. Even in Kenya, if I wanted a blood test done I could get it in hours. But British patients always ask, ‘How many days will my blood test take?'”.
A constant refrain of health tourists is that they have been driven to it. “From my first visit to my GP to seeing the consultant took eight months,” says Bob Gallagher [client of The Medical Tourist Company], 56, who went to India for cardiac ablation. “It was. 000 rather than?2,000 in the UK. “Gallagher’s ablation became open-heart surgery. “Sitting in India, I thought, ‘Who do I trust?’ Not the NHS. Easy choice.” So he had the surgery and returned home happy. “They discovered a problem that hadn’t even been picked up here,” he says. “The surgeon phoned me at home. Can you see someone from the NHS doing that?” He has now managed to get his operation covered by travel insurance, but maintains he would have tried reparations from the NHS. “They need to be embarassed.” Seething beneath almost every British medical tourist’s story is a resentment towards the NHS for its lack of provision in the hour of need.