Healthcare abroad post-Brexit

By the beginning of 2021 most UK citizens travelling within Europe and the EEA will no longer have access to European Health Insurance.

With Britain moving swiftly through its transition period, and all of us preparing for the changes set to be instated on 1st January 2021, it is of vital importance that we aware of the implications for anyone planning to travel to Europe after Brexit.

Since 2005, The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) has ensured that British citizens travelling in Europe, the EEA and Switzerland are insured for clinically necessary medical attention. Essentially, those in need of treatment for pre-existing health conditions, medical emergencies, and pre-natal care are currently covered under the state-provided healthcare of all participating countries.

This means that, until the EHIC is no longer valid for British citizens, medical attention is available at no cost – or at a significantly reduced rate – depending on the country’s healthcare system. By the beginning of 2021, however, this will no longer be the case.

What Does This Mean?

During times of unrestricted travel, approximately 3,000 Brits require medical attention every week. While nobody anticipates falling seriously ill – or sustaining a serious injury – while on holiday, the statistics reveal a vastly different reality.

Without the protection of European health cover for UK citizens, any traveller is liable for the high cost of their own treatment, which can easily run up into three- or four-figures, or beyond.

Many of us have spent decades benefitting from the simplicity of travel within Europe, even if we have been lucky enough to avoid needing medical attention. Now more than ever, however, the importance of preserving our health as we travel further afield as been thrown into sharp relief, and in the post-Brexit landscape, any trip outside of the UK will require a much greater level of planning, preparation, and foresight.

From relatively minor infections to devastating accidents and injuries, there are countless threats posed to our health each time we leave our homes. Without European health insurance for UK citizens, however, healthcare can and will take an extreme financial toll on patients.

How to Prepare for Post-Brexit Travel

Insurance - Ideally, the notion of taking out travel insurance prior to any trip abroad should not be new – the government still recommends travel insurance, even with the EHIC card still offering plenty of security for British travellers. Treatment for serious injuries and lifesaving medical intervention, while not a part of anyone’s travel plans, are sometimes required; the costs can be devastating, and insurance that covers medical expenses is an essential for anyone leaving the country.

Bring the Right Pre-Emptive Medication - One of the best ways to protect your health and finances during a trip abroad is to buy antibiotics online, from a trustworthy source, before you leave the UK. Traveller’s diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections are both incredibly common issues that many tourists experience every year. Both can be treated by antibiotics that target the bacteria causing the symptoms; without the right treatment, they can persist and, occasionally, cause serious complications.

Similarly, ear, tooth and urine infections comprise a large number of minor medical issues travellers face abroad each year, and they all have the potential to ruin a trip and confine you to the hotel room for the majority of the trip. The cost of pre-emptive medication is preferable to the expense of professional medical attention, and any potential hindrances to your ability to find it.

Understand How to Protect Your Health Abroad - All new environments pose new health concerns and factors such as lack of sleep and sudden changes to diet mean that many travellers experience health issues at some time or another. For this reason, it is important to understand what steps to take to ensure that you are protecting yourself from harm:

  • Limit Sun Exposure - Sun stroke can range in severity, from a mild headache to serious complications and, in some cases, death. While many can alleviate the symptoms with plenty of fluids and rest, others will require medical attention.
  • Wash Hands Regularly - Anywhere you go, you are exposed to innumerable germs – many of which cause no real harm. On holiday, however, the risk of exposure is greater, and without the safeguard currently offered by your EHIC, you will be vulnerable to the costs of treatment.
  • Practice Good Food and Water Hygiene - Avoid water that has not been supplied from a newly opened bottle, and ensure all food is thoroughly cooked and served fresh.
  • Avoid Animals - Bites and scratches can become severely infected, and risk the transferral of rabies, for which the vaccine is essential, and potentially very expensive.

Much of the caution UK citizens will need to show during post-Brexit travel is nothing new, but it will take on greater significance with the loss of EHIC. By pre-empting the various risks we take every time we go abroad – and ensuring that we are prepared to take greater responsibility for our own health – we can continue to enjoy our travels without the constant worry of falling ill.

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