As has happened in several industries around the world lately, the medical tourism industry has experienced a slow down. People have not been able to spend as much money on elective surgeries as they have in the past, and they have not been travelling outside of their home countries to seek these surgeries as often. Although the reason that people would typically go to foreign countries to have cosmetic surgery abroad is because they are looking for a cheaper alternative than they would have in their home countries, the fact of the matter is that medical tourism has suffered because of the world recession.
At least in the United Kingdom, it seems that medical tourism is resurging. The National Health Service (NHS) has spent more money on health services between the years 1997 and 2010, but this has not led to increased health care for the people. What people are experiencing now are longer waiting periods before they can have medical procedures done in the areas of dentistry, cosmetic surgery, bariatric surgery and treatments for infertility.
At the present time, the NHS has been receiving fewer funds, and this contributes to the inability for patients to access the health care they need. The NHS also had been charged with implementing reforms that would make the system run better. Currently, the NHS has been experiencing a delay in starting these reforms, and patients are beginning to suffer as a result. Because of this, patients who need cosmetic dentistry and plastic surgery, weight-loss surgery and infertility treatments are beginning to elect to pay for their own treatments outside of the country.
Over the years, the NHS has tried to force the dental industry to reform. The result has not been an increase in productivity and a decrease in costs. People have seen their bills go up when the NHS has tried to improve the system and they have begun to seek private dentists. As they compare the costs of private dentists in the UK and those in foreign countries, they have found that dentists in foreign countries are charging much less for dental procedures than private dentists in the UK. For this reason, medical tourism for cosmetic dental procedures has increased and will continue to do so.
The NHS has been slow to approve bariatric surgery for the 25 percent of the population in the UK that has been diagnosed with obesity. They are currently aware of the evidence that shows bariatric surgery eases the effects of diseases caused by obesity such as Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. With the delay in being approved for this surgery, obese patients are having the same reaction that those who need dental procedures are having; they will seek their treatment outside of the UK. The fact that 1,000,000 people currently meet the requirements to be offered bariatric surgery means that most of these people will be forced to wait a very long time to obtain their surgeries.
Travel indicators show that more people have been going outside of the UK recently, and it has been shown that a good portion of this travel is due to medical tourism. The International Passenger Survey (IPS) interviews people as they come in and go out of the airports, sea ports and Channel Tunnel. In 2008 when the economic recession began, the numbers of people leaving for medical reasons decreased to 50,000. It began to rise to 52,000 in 2009. Last year, the numbers of medical tourists began to pick up considerably with 61,000 people leaving the UK for medical treatment. So far this year, 65,000 people have travelled for medical procedures with 40,000 of those people seeking dental treatment and 15,000 opting for cosmetic surgeries.
The numbers tell a story. More people are leaving the UK for dental, cosmetic, bariatric and infertility procedures. With long wait times and increased cost for these procedures, more and more people are deciding to exercise their right to make a choice not to wait for approval from the NHS and travel to another country to pay for cheaper health care.