What are the opportunities for outbound medical travel from the UK?

In previous years, outbound medical tourism from the UK has been pushed by sufferers looking for to save cash by travelling for beauty surgical procedure and dental remedy in decrease price locations in Europe, corresponding to Hungary, Poland and Turkey. Has the impression of the pandemic expanded the outbound medical tourism market from the UK?

Previous to the pandemic, many hospitals, clinics and facilitators throughout Europe noticed the UK as a wealthy supply of medical vacationers, and regardless of a lot of the damaging publicity within the UK media, there was a gradual development within the variety of sufferers travelling for decrease price beauty surgical procedure and dental remedy, and to some extent for IVF.  Estimating the variety of such medical vacationers has by no means been simple, regardless of the efforts of the Workplace of Nationwide Statistics to watch such exercise via the International Passenger Survey. Nonetheless, the small measurement of the information pattern, makes it tough to place an correct determine on the outbound circulate.  It might be 50,000. It might be 100,000. It might be extra, or a lot much less. No-one actually is aware of.

Because the pandemic, locations are reporting the restoration of medical tourism from the UK. Nonetheless, inflation, the present recession and the ensuing strain on disposable revenue might, in actual fact, limit the circulate of sufferers for “discretionary” remedies corresponding to beauty and dental.  However then again, has the pandemic pushed demand in different areas of healthcare?

To gauge this new demand, we have to have a look at how the pandemic has affected UK sufferers entry to well being companies.

How Covid-19 has impacted UK healthcare

The impression of the pandemic on NHS capability, the underfunding of public sector healthcare companies, and the extreme workers shortages (partially on account of Brexit – the variety of new nurse registrations from the EU has dropped by 87%), have meant a steep rise in ready lists and pent-up demand for healthcare. The primary drivers have been and proceed to be:

  • Sufferers on ready lists for NHS remedy who would ordinarily have been seen by now.
  • Sufferers who haven’t but introduced to their GP (major care doctor) to hunt a referral for signs because of considerations of burdening the well being service or fears round COVID-19 an infection.
  • Sufferers who’ve had operations cancelled because of workers shortages.
  • Sufferers who’ve had advisor/specialist referrals delayed or cancelled.
  • Sufferers who’ve had referrals refused because of an absence of capability.
  • Sufferers who’re unable to safe immediate entry to major care companies, making a delay in preliminary analysis and referral.

Previous to the pandemic in February 2020 there have been already 4.43 million sufferers on a ready record for care in England. The most recent figures present:

  • A document of seven.1 million individuals ready for remedy on the finish of September.
  • 87 million sufferers ready over 18 weeks for remedy.
  • 401,537 sufferers ready over a 12 months for remedy – which is over 400 instances the 1,032 individuals ready over a 12 months pre-pandemic in July 2019.
  • A median ready time for remedy of 14 weeks – considerably increased than the pre-COVID period.

Supply: BMA analysis of NHS England Consultant-led Referral to Treatment Waiting Times statistics

All areas of healthcare are being affected, together with critical illnesses corresponding to most cancers and coronary heart illness which in regular instances could be seen inside a two-week referral goal. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) reviews that for the reason that starting of September, there have been almost 900 extra deaths in individuals with most cancers than could be anticipated right now of 12 months.

Right here is the image for most cancers referrals.

Supply: BMA analysis of NHS England Consultant-led Referral to Treatment Waiting Times statistics

The proportion of sufferers seen by a specialist advisor inside two weeks of an pressing GP referral for suspected most cancers is extraordinarily low. The 93% goal for sufferers to be seen throughout the two-week goal has not been met since Could 2020.

Some efforts have been made to outsource NHS sufferers for remedy within the UK’s non-public hospitals. Nonetheless, there are capability points within the non-public sector because of elevated demand within the self-pay market and the backlog of personal sector sufferers.

The expansion of self-pay remedy

Self-pay remedy is the place a affected person who isn’t lined by medical insurance, decides to pay money (or take out a mortgage) for remedy in a personal hospital below a hard and fast worth surgical procedure package deal. Typical costs for this from a significant UK supplier:

  • Hip substitute – £12,500 (US$14,800)
  • Knee substitute – £12,500
  • Cataract surgical procedure – £2,650 (one eye)

In keeping with the Private Healthcare Information Network which gathers knowledge on non-public healthcare exercise, when evaluating July to September 2019 and the identical interval for 2021, there was a rise in self-pay of 35%, with 67,100 individuals opting to pay out-of-pocket for personal remedy. Spire Healthcare reported a ‘sustained change’ in client attitudes in direction of non-public hospital care and that personal affected person income was up by greater than 30% on pre-pandemic ranges. The transfer to self-pay additionally extends to these areas the place sufferers would usually anticipate immediate remedy below the NHS. The month-to-month variety of privately funded chemotherapy periods reached 13,200 in 2021, up from round 10,000 in February 2019.

So… what’s the alternative for locations to focus on the UK?

Previously, few UK sufferers have chosen to go overseas for main surgical procedure. Nonetheless, the present state of the UK’s well being companies might encourage UK sufferers to increase their horizons when it comes to remedies that they search and the locations that they could contemplate.

That represents a possibility for businesses and facilitators, and hospitals and clinics in decrease price locations that may reassure UK sufferers in regards to the high quality of care and remedy end result. When you’re this enterprise alternative, listed below are some issues to contemplate:

  • Worth – how do your costs evaluate to these throughout the UK’s non-public hospitals when the price of journey and lodging are factored in?
  • Have you ever thought of offering finance/mortgage preparations for sufferers?
  • Are you able to provide an all-inclusive, mounted worth package deal that matches the providing of a UK non-public hospital?
  • High quality – are you able to present proof of your requirements of care and importantly… outcomes?
  • Affected person help – how will you help the affected person all through the affected person journey, significantly after they return residence.

And at last, how will you generate enquiries and entice these UK sufferers? Be sure to embrace LaingBuisson’s affected person acquisition web site, Treatment Abroad in your advertising and marketing plans!

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