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Considering Surgery Abroad: What You Should Know

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 16 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Surgery Abroad Cosmetic Surgery Abroad

Having surgery abroad is something that has become increasingly popular in the UK over recent years. Whether it’s because of NHS waiting lists, the lower cost of private medical treatment in some overseas countries compared with the cost of private healthcare in the UK or the fact that the UK is yet to sanction certain medical procedures, there can be many reasons why people choose to have their surgery abroad.

What Is Meant By ‘Medical Tourism’?

‘Medical tourism’ is simply a term that has been devised to describe the process of people travelling to overseas countries to obtain medical, surgical, dental and cosmetic care. Quite often, people will go through an agency whose job it is to make the arrangements with the foreign hospital on behalf of the patient.

Cosmetic Surgery Abroad

Cosmetic surgery abroad is one of the biggest growth areas in the medical tourism sector and its appeal often lies in the fact that certain cosmetic surgery procedures are often far less expensive to have carried out as for similar procedures in the UK.

However, cosmetic surgery is an area where you really need to be careful as in many countries, supposed 'surgeons' can set themselves up as cosmetic surgery experts without any formal training or qualifications and it is probably the most prevalent area of surgery which is prone to abuse. Therefore, it's even more vital to ensure that you've done all the necessary checks on accreditation and credentials before booking any cosmetic surgery abroad.

What About Foreign Hospitals’ & Surgeons’ Credentials?

Most medical tourism agencies will be able to provide you with the records of individual surgeons and hospitals accreditations and credentials. However, with the internet these days, it’s important that you try to do as much of your own research as you can to back that up. You should call a hospital up and ask to speak with the doctors or surgeons in question and ask if there are any patients who may be willing to provide a verbal testimony over the phone.


Before you go ahead and book a procedure at a foreign hospital, you should check with your insurance company that you would be covered by your existing medical insurance policy.

For example, if you’re seeking treatment which is not available in the UK, it’s highly probable that your insurance company would not cover you in the event that things went wrong so you need to check and double check what you are, and perhaps more importantly, what you ARE NOT covered for.

Calculating The Cost Of Hospital Treatment Overseas

Before you start booking your surgery abroad, make sure you find out the total cost of what’s involved. Some hospital costs might just cover the procedure itself whilst another hospital might include airfare, a hotel and any additional costs associated with rehabilitation and post-operative care so it’s important to find out the ‘bottom line’ so that you can gauge overall cost. Don’t forget to include things like local taxes too and the cost of any transportation between the airport and the hospital.


It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into, especially in the event of things going wrong. You’ll, therefore, need to find out who bears liability in the event that a procedure goes wrong and to find out how much compensation you could be entitled to as well as having some understanding about the laws of a particular country when it comes to initiating a lawsuit against a medical practice or individual as that will differ from country to country. And make sure you get all of that in writing.

Do Your Homework And Speak To Your Own Doctor First

The important thing when considering whether or not to have treatment or surgery abroad is to do your research thoroughly. Find out as much as you can about the hospital or medical facility, the surgeon and the previous patients before going ahead and booking.

Speak to your own GP about what you intend to do and show them the details of the hospital and surgeon which you’re looking to use. Remember that you may be compromising your access to treatment and care in the UK, should there be complications as a result of surgery abroad going wrong, especially if your own GP has tried to put you off going in the first place for whatever reason.

Medical treatment and surgery abroad has to be more than simply about saving money. Your life could be at risk for one thing. The key is to ensure that you’re armed with all of the facts in order for you to reach an informed decision on whether or not it’s right for you in specific circumstances.

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