News 6 rules of dealing with injury and illness abroad

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6 rules of dealing with injury and illness abroad

6 rules of dealing with injury and illness abroad

How to avoid a £45K medical bill


We tend to avoid giving it too much thought before jetting off on our trip, but a nasty bug, a broken bone, or something worse could cost you an ambulance load of cash if you’re not prepared.

Falling ill or getting injured is bad enough on home turf, but in a foreign county where you may not speak the lingo and everything seems unfamiliar, it can be far more daunting – and way more costly.

So it’s essential to know what to do in the event of a medical crisis whilst abroad, not only to get you immediate access to emergency healthcare, but to potentially to save you thousands of pounds too.

1. Get Travel and Health Insurance

This is an absolute must, but one that surprisingly 20% risk going without to try and save a few extra pennies. However, if you do get ill or injured, your scrimping could turn out to be a very false economy; an emergency abroad can be extremely expensive. Here are the costs of air ambulance in various countries:

£35,000-45,000 – air ambulance from USA’s East coast
£12,000-16,000 – air ambulance from the Canary Islands
£15,000-20,000 – scheduled flight, stretcher and doctor escort from Australia

Be sure your policy covers:

• Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
• 24 hour emergency service and assistance
• Cover for lost and stolen possessions
• Holiday cancellation cover
• Extra cover for activities you may partake in such as skiing, jet skiing, paragliding, bungee jumping and scuba diving

For more detailed information, read Skyscanner’s travel insurance guide.

2. In Europe get an EHIC – European Health Insurance Card

Replacing the old E111 form, get the EHIC before you travel as it gives you rights to healthcare during a temporary visit to the EEA. All UK residents over the age of 16 are entitled to his card.

It’s free, and covers you if you have an accident or you suddenly become ill by giving you access to state-provided medical care either free or at a greatly reduced price. Just make sure you carry it with you at all times and note that the EHIC does NOT include repatriation to the UK or private treatment.

Remember that every country’s healthcare system is different, and what is covered on the NHS in the UK, may not be covered for free abroad.

Check the NHS travel advice pages which offer country by country guides of what to expect from each country’s healthcare system and remember that the EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance.

3. Research your destination and come prepared

Can you drink the tap water? Do you need vaccinations or malaria treatments? Visit the NHS’ Fit For Travel site which tells you what you’ll need for every country.

Remember to bring your own supply of medication if you need it, BUT ensure you have documentation to support it and check that it is legal in your destination. Not all mediation that is legal in the UK is permitted in other countries.

Also, pack a small first aid kit to patch up any minor injuries. We recommend the Gelert Travel Pack Kit.

4. Minor illness, injury or dental problems

Your tour operator or hotel should be able to direct you to the nearest hospital or dentist. Depending on where you are, the medical staff may speak English, but if not try to get someone with knowledge of English and the local language to accompany you. Some insurance policies also provide over the phone translators for such situations.

Ensure you show them your EHIC card if in Europe. You will often have to pay up front, or at least provide a credit card. Ensure you get all the receipts and medical documentation so you can claim on your insurance once you get back to the UK.

If you require emergency dental treatment abroad ask the treating dentist to provide confirmation of the cause of the problem and details of the treatment provided to help support your claim.

5. Emergencies and hospital Stays

In most European countries, dialling either 911 or 112 will get you the emergency services, but check the local number and put it into your phone before you get there.

For serious cases contact your travel insurance company immediately and explain the situation. Most provide 24 hour emergency assistance, and will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

6. Contact your nearest embassy

If you are admitted to hospital abroad you should contact your nearest embassy as soon as possible. The FCO will then contact you and any family or friends plus liaise with your insurance or medical evacuation company. They will NOT pay your medical bills or provide medical treatment themselves.

Related reading:

7 tips for safer travels

Travel insurance guide