Brits urged to take out travel insurance as hospitalisation cases soar

Holidaymakers and their families face risk of huge bills if visitors lack insurance or invalidate their policies

New report reveals Spain has highest number of hospitalised Brits worldwide

More than 1,100 cases of Brits ending up in hospital were reported to consular staff in Spain last year, according to a new report from the Foreign Office.

The number is equivalent to 20 hospitalisations in Spain every week, and represents nearly a third of the total number of cases around the world. The figures come from the annual British Behaviour Abroad report for the period 1 April 2011 - 31 March 2012.

In the Balearics, the number of reported cases has soared. Over the last two years (since 2009/10), Mallorca has seen a 132% increase in hospitalisations, and Ibiza a 40% rise. Many of these cases involve teenage holidaymakers. Common causes are road accidents, balcony incidents and heart attacks. Meanwhile Malaga has seen a 45% increase over the last year alone.

Jeremy Browne, Minister for Consular Services, said: “Whilst the prospect of ending up in a foreign hospital may be the last thing on your mind as you head overseas for a summer break, sometimes things do go wrong on holiday and many people deeply regret not taking out comprehensive travel insurance.

“We also witness many cases where people have invalidated their policy – perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped. Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home.

“I urge anyone heading overseas this summer to research their destination, take out comprehensive travel insurance, and carefully check the small print of their policy.”

New research by the Foreign Office reveals that nearly half (48%) of all Brits fail to realise that without travel insurance they will have to pay their own medical bills if injured or taken ill abroad.

An emergency can be extremely expensive - medical treatment can cost thousands of pounds, whilst medical repatriation to the UK can cost even more. Consular staff in Spain have witnessed distressing cases involving families having to raise vast sums of money to pay hospital and repatriation bills.

The research also reveals that nearly four out of five (78%) people would lack the ready cash to pay £10,000 to cover the hospital bills of an uninsured loved one abroad.

Visitors to Spain, and British residents who may be hosting them, should remember three key things:
• Buy comprehensive travel insurance – avoid a life-changing bill
• Read the small print – don’t invalidate your policy by mistake
• Get an EHIC card – it’s a ‘holiday essential’ for any state medical treatment you might need while visiting, but it doesn’t cover everything.

A British Embassy spokesperson said: “An EHIC is free and simple to obtain. Getting one could save you a lot of grief. If you don’t have one, it could make a tricky situation even harder. Then buy travel insurance and for the cost of a meal in a restaurant you should be fully covered against expensive health-related bills and other risks. It’s not worth it to be without.”

The total number of consular assistance cases in Spain last year rose more than 8% to 5405 cases. These included 1105 hospitalisations (up 8%), 1909 arrests (up 9%) and 40 cases of rape or sexual assault (down 22%). Some 13.6 million Britons visited Spain last year and an estimated 800,000 Britons are resident here.

For details on how the Foreign Office can help if you get into trouble abroad, visit Travel & living abroad