We all love living and working in the UAE but what do we do if we need advanced medical care?

As we all know the health care system in the UAE is a mixed public-private system. There’s a public system for Emiratis and a large and growing private sector for expats

Over the past twenty years, health care in the UAE has changed dramatically and has undergone huge changes with improvements in the quality of care in both the private and public sectors. 

Several surveys unfortunately tell another story. Expats would rather seek medical treatment abroad if they become seriously ill. This is despite an increasing amount of trust in the UAE’s healthcare system. There are several reasons for this, including lack of confidence in medical services; to be closer to family or simply a lack of certain specialities in the country. It’s true that there are certain services that aren’t as well developed here and there’s a lack of sub-specialisation in areas such as cardiac services, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics and paediatrics.

Information is often sought on traveling back to the UK for medical care. So, what’s the process if you want to access healthcare back home and how do you decide on where to go?

The NHS is a residence-based healthcare system, so as an expat we’re no longer entitled to free medical treatment. This comes as a shock to many expats when trying to access NHS care whilst living abroad.

Since October 2017, the NHS has been making changes to ensure that non-residents are no longer able to access healthcare in the UK.  Expats (without a European Health Insurance Card) who return to the UK to use NHS hospitals will be billed for 150 per cent of the cost of treatment if they don’t have sufficient insurance.  Financial penalties have been put in place for NHS trusts that fail to identify and bill chargeable patients.

Paying for treatment

Medical Insurance

A number of insurance companies in the UAE have direct settlement contracts with the UK’s leading hospitals or UK based third-party medical claims administrators. Everyone is aware that the Bupa International policy covers the UK and it is highly likely there are direct contracts with some of the UK’s leading hospitals. Daman, for example, has a direct contract with the Royal Brompton and Harefield hospital, Europe’s largest cardiothoracic hospital for both adult and paediatric cardiac and pulmonary cases.

So firstly you’ll need to check that your insurer has an agreement with your chosen hospital. It would also be prudent to check that the consultant you’ve been referred to is also accepted by your insurer.  You’ll be responsible for settling your account should the insurer not recognise the claim. In fact, most consultants and hospitals will request an up front payment equivalent to the full estimated cost of treatment if they don’t have authorisation from your insurance company.

Self pay

If you’re paying from your own account, you’ll be asked to pay a deposit which is equivalent to the full estimated cost of treatment and is payable before admission. The deposit is based on an estimation of the expected cost of the treatment using the medical information provided at the time of booking.  Admission won’t be possible if the deposit hasn’t been received. All payments are made in sterling pounds and most hospitals will accept credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard.

Company Sponsorship

This isn’t as prevalent as in previous years due mainly to the improvements in health care delivery in the UAE. Added to this the fact that more UK hospitals are only willing to accept payment from UK-based companies.

Where do I go and how do I get there?

Most of the leading hospitals, both private and private units in NHS hospitals, have an international department, details of which can be found on their respective websites.

You can contact the hospital directly as a self referrer to be seen or admitted by one of the hospitals consultants.  In this case, the hospital would require a medical report from your local physician – including any relevant test results. The medical report should not be any more than 3 months old and be in English.

Alternatively, your UAE doctor can refer you directly to a UK consultant or to a member of the Private Patient/International Department in your chosen hospital, based on the medical reports submitted, they will then identify the most appropriate Consultant.

Second opinions are also available via these Private Patient/International Departments. Depending on the speciality some are free whilst others paid. Again, check with your insurance company as some do cover this service.

So, if you’re travelling to the UK and need to make use of medical care while abroad, make sure you’re covered.

Written by British Mums Aileen Culligan.

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How UK vaccinations differs to Dubai

Difficulties of living with parents over summer

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