The British newspaper The Independent reports that Britain’s National Health Service could save millions if the Department of Health considered utilizing medical tourism. “Thousands of patients waiting for operations such as hip replacements and hernia repairs could be treated more cheaply and quickly if the Government set up formal agreements” with medical tourism destinations, the report says.
Currently, the publicly-funded health service provides healthcare to all residents free 0f charge, but there has been criticism surrounding the wait times for many elective procedures. The Independent article argues that these wait times could be reduced through medical tourism, while saving a significant amount of money.
“At least £120m could be saved,” says the article, “if NHS patients currently waiting for just five different operations went to India, with a companion, for treatment in an accredited hospital, according to health economists’ calculations.” India is one of many medical tourism destinations, many of which provide a quality of healthcare equal to or better than that in Britain, say experts.
Hundreds of thousands of people are already taking advantage of medical tourism on their own. Britons make up a large portion of medical tourists, as do uninsured Americans who cannot afford the high cost of many medical treatments in the United States. “The estimated number of medical tourists worldwide each year ranges from four million to 617 million,” says the Independent.
In the coming years, many expect that governments around the world will start to consider medical tourism as a solution to rising medical costs and wait lists. Developing countries such as India, Thailand, and Mexico, as well as highly-developed countries such as Singapore and Taiwan can provide many medical procedures for a fraction of the cost in Britain and the United States. As populations continue to age in western countries, many expect medical tourism to experience tremendous growth.