The Foreign Office’s annual British Behaviour Abroad report showed that from 1 April 2011-31 March 2012 Foreign Office staff handled 19,874 assistance cases - up 3% from the previous year - with Spain, USA and France recording the highest number of cases.
The report highlighted a significant increase in the number of hospitalisations reported to consular staff among British people travelling to popular holiday hotspots including Spain, Greece and Egypt.
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Last year, on average, 70 British people were hospitalised every week while abroad. Over 30% of these were in Spain - of which half were on the islands of Majorca and Ibiza which have seen a steep rise in cases over the past two years.
Minister for Consular Services Jeremy Browne said:
“Whilst the prospect of ending up in a foreign hospital may be the last thing on your mind as you head overseas for a summer break, sometimes things do go wrong on holiday and many people deeply regret not taking out comprehensive travel insurance.
“We witness many cases where people have invalidated their policy - perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped. Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home.
“I urge anyone heading overseas this summer to research their destination, take out comprehensive travel insurance, and carefully check the small print of their policy.”
New research by the Foreign Office revealed that of the 2,000 Brits surveyed nearly half (48%) do not realise that without travel insurance they would be liable to pay for their own medical bills if injured or taken ill abroad.
An emergency abroad can be extremely expensive - medical treatment can cost thousands of pounds and last year consular staff witnessed a number of distressing cases involving families having to raise vast sums of money to pay hospital and repatriation bills. The research also revealed that nearly four out of five (78%) people admitted that they would not have the money to hand to pay £10,000 to cover hospital bills of an uninsured loved one abroad.
The FCO urges people to remember three key things before they go away this summer:
- Get comprehensive travel insurance - and read the small print!
- Check the health requirements - so you can get right vaccinations and malaria medication if required
- Research your destination - the more clued up you are, the smoother your trip will be
A number of other key findings were highlighted in the report, including:
- Spain is the country where most Britons require consular assistance, including 1105 hospitalisations, but when you take visitor and resident numbers into account, you are most likely to need consular assistance in the Philippines, followed by Thailand
- The number of rape cases reported to consular staff increased by 10%
- Deaths of British people abroad have increased by 4%
- A 10% increase in emergency travel documents issued to people who had lost their passports or had them stolen
Read the full report (PDF)