Britain: healthier climes? Learn the lingo

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Dec 16 16:32:41 UTC 2006

The Times December 16, 2006


Healthier climes?

Choosing to live abroad can lead to problems in medical care

The headline was certainly eye-catching: 5.5 million Britons opt to live
abroad. Thats almost three quarters of Londons population or five
Birminghams worth. The figures were released in an Institute for Public
Policy Research report that showed that one British-born person in ten
lives abroad, with about 67,500 more Britons leaving the UK than returning
each year. The top destinations are Australia and Spain, but the report
notes that a significant number run into trouble because they have not
planned their departure properly. Advice for people wishing to move abroad
is full of information about housing and local regulations but there is
little about health. And for people retiring to warmer climes, health can
be a big issue. For some it seems a route to better health; fewer aches
and pains with drier, warmer air, for instance. But many of todays retired
folk act and feel much younger than their parents generation, and assume
that they will remain in fine fettle. Some do, but many dont, and thats
when the problems may start.

Gone are the days when getting ill abroad meant swift repatriation.
Treatment in Spain, for example, can be excellent; sometimes better than
in Britain. Although NHS treatment is very often first-class its
availability is variable and expats may well find that they can get
top-quality treatment more quickly in their new home. Many of the cancer
drugs denied to us in Britain, for instance, are available, sometimes for
free, elsewhere in Europe. But there are two areas that need special
consideration. The first is cost. More and more people choose Florida as a
retirement destination, but youll need to take out potentially expensive
insurance cover in the US.  Inside the European Union, Brits are
automatically covered for medical treatment, but only for up to five
years, and there are exceptions that need to be checked. Some treatments
free on the NHS might not be cheaply accessed abroad.

But the real hurdle for those in non-English-speaking countries is
language and familiarity. Being able to get by in a language may be
grossly inadequate when grappling with the vocabulary of doctors trying to
explain complex medical conditions. And misunderstandings and lack of
information are a prime reason for people feeling frightened and confused
when ill.

When people are sick, they crave the comfort of home. Its more than a
longing for a decent cup of tea. Its being near to family and those things
that are most familiar. So, if you are considering abroad, check out the
health facilities, not just the des res and the golf course. And resolve
to learn the lingo.,,589-2504838,00.html

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