More UK patients seeking treatment abroad

In 2016, 144,000 people travelled abroad from the UK to avoid lengthy wait times from the health service last year, a rapid increase from 48,000 in 2014.

Increasing wait times, especially on hip, knee and cataract operations was a cause of UK patients opting to go abroad. 409,000 patients are waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment in the UK, up from 34,000 in 2014.

An increasing number of clinical commissioning groups are restricting access to surgery for certain groups of patients, such as those seeking fertility treatment, or the old.

The Office for National Statistics says that 143,996 flights took place from the UK for medical reasons in 2016 with 100,338 and 48,190 taking place in 2015 and 2014 respectively.

Eastern Europe is popular for dentistry and cosmetic surgery while France and Switzerland are being targeted for hip and knee operations. Couples seeking fertility treatment are going to Spain.

The Department of Health says; “There are many reasons why people seek treatment abroad, and the total number who did last year is less than 1 % of those who began treatment in the UK.”