By Humphrey Carter

THE British and Spanish health services are discussing a number of measures to crack down on British “health tourists” coming to Spain for non-essential treatment as both services are being made to tighten their budgets by their respective governments.

Apparently, doctors in Spain have spoken out in support of recent allegations by the country's politicians that ‘health tourists' are merely freeloading on the back of the Spanish health insurance.

Citing the large British expatriate community in Alicante as an example, the SiMap union claimed expatriates account for up to 20 percent of all hospital admissions.

SiMap, which is the representative body for Spanish public health doctors, has aimed its criticism at those travellers in possession of the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) which in theory is for providing emergency care and treatment for troubled holidaymakers. SiMap has not directed any criticism at those expats who pay taxes and have rightful residency.

It is believed that of the many thousands of British expatriates and holidaymakers that regularly alternate between the United Kingdom and Spanish residences there exists a percentage who carefully coordinate travel depending on their medical needs and where they can best jump waiting lists and, in come cases, apparently receive better treatment.

The new concerns are rare amongst health professionals who have for years kept quiet about the issue which politicians have labelled as freeloading.
The main reason has been how ‘emergency treatment' can be defined which ultimately has meant that doctors most often do not question the patients' claims of any alleged illness.


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