The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has released its annual British Behaviour Abroad report, with figures showing that ten holidaymakers are hospitalised every day overseas, leaving their families with huge bills if they don’t have travel insurance. Between April 1, 2011 and March 31 of this year, 56,090 Brits travelled abroad.
Over the 12-month period, the FCO handled 19,874 assistance cases – a 3% increase from the prior year. There was a significant increase in hospitalisations reported to consular staff, and the highest number of cases were in Spain, the US and France. However, the most likely destination to need consular assistance is the Philippines, followed by Thailand, when taking resident and visitor numbers into account. Cases handled during crisis situations aren’t included in the British Behaviour Abroad report, as they aren’t recorded in the same way.
On average, there were 70 Brits hospitalised while overseas every week, and more than 30% (1105) of these were in Spain. Half of the Spanish hospitalisations were on the islands of Ibiza and Majorca, which have seen a substantial rise in cases in the last two years. Majorca has had a 132% jump in hospitalisation over the period, while Ibiza has had a 40% rise. Consular staff say most of the cases involve teens on holiday, and common causes include balcony incidents, heart attacks, pedestrian accidents and vehicle accidents.
The report also showed that there was a 10% increase in rape cases reported to consular staff. There was a 10% rise in emergency travel documents issued to people who reported lost or stolen passports. Additionally, the number of deaths of British holidaymakers overseas rose 4%.
Additionally, research of 2,000 British holidaymakers has found that 48% don’t realise they will be liable to pay for their medical needs if they are injured or fall ill while abroad and don’t have travel insurance. The study also found that 78% of Brits admitted to not having the money to cover a £10,000 bill if a loved one is uninsured and runs into trouble abroad. Emergencies can be very expensive overseas, as medical treatment can run into thousands of pounds.
Last year, consular staff witnessed several distressing cases related to families having to raise money to pay for hospital bills and repatriation costs. The FCO is encouraging people to remember three main things before they travel this summer: 1) buy comprehensive travel cover and read the small print; 2) check health requirements, like what vaccinations and malaria medications are needed; and 3) research the holiday destination so travellers have a smoother trip.
Minister for Consular Services Jeremy Browne 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.”
Browne added, “We 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.”
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