20/04/2012 Canary Islands/ Spain (KMC) - HM Ambassador Giles Paxman has written a letter to Spanish daily newspaper ABC in response to an article which suggested the British Embassy was encouraging health tourism.
The article was published just before a meeting of regional health ministers on Wednesday, where Ana Pastor said legislation was being prepared to prevent abuse of the Spanish health system by holidaymakers, whose sole reason for visiting Spain is to access treatment, including operations. This practice of ´health tourism´ is calculated to cost the country over one billion euros a year and ABC newspaper claimed in its article that curbing government spending on health tourism is one of Mauel Rajoy’s methods for reducing the deficit.
The piece, written by David Martinez, describes the Embassy guide on healthcare as ‘comprehensive’ and describes how the website gives practical advice for British people concerning what Spanish benefits they are entitled to depending on their situation (student, worker, retired persons and holidaymakers). It also claims that the practice of health tourism is just one of the burdens carried by the Spanish health system whose ‘standards of excellence are recognised all over the world as well as in the British Isles.’ The newspaper also claimed that there were countless cases of European citizens who apply for residence in Spain to obtain a health card, before returning to their country of origin and undergoing expensive operations which the Spanish state is then charged for.
However, Ambassador Giles Paxman dismissed the claims, stating that, “The British Government does not condone or encourage ‘health tourism’. British nationals visiting or residing in Spain are of course entitled to access the Spanish health system, just as Spanish nationals in the UK are entitled to access the British healthcare system. The aim of our website advice is to ensure that if British nationals need to access the Spanish healthcare system, they do so in full compliance with Spanish legislation.”