6 Oct, 2009 @ 15:28
1 min read

Expats blamed for “scalpel tourism”

EXPATRIATES have been slammed for taking advantage of the Spanish health service.

It comes as hospitals on the Costa del Sol are being stretched due to the extra demand from Britons owning homes on the coast.

Many are long-term UK residents who fly out to avoid NHS waiting lists or receive treatment that would otherwise not be provided for them back home.

In particular, hip and cataract operations are the procedures most sought after by Britons now flocking to Spain.

Some allegedly visit their holiday homes just for treatment and return home as soon as it is complete.

“We get an increasing number of cases of foreigners who, taking advantage of the fact that they own a home on the Costa del Sol and that their own country does not cover all that we offer in Andalucía, decide to come here,” said the Costa del Sol Hospital general manager, Antonio Perez.

Dubbed “health scroungers” these Britons form part of a growing contingent of people from the UK, Germany and Scandinavia who cherry pick Spain’s health services.

Some allegedly visit their holiday homes just for treatment and return home as soon as it is complete.

“Spain’s health service is quick, free and offers a wide range of services,” said Dr Juan Benedito of Simaptoday, a doctors’ trade union. “It is not surprising that people come here.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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  1. A pensioner with residency here can get recripricol treatment – that is EU law. A person living and working here has to pay stamp to qualify for treatment. Is it pensioners that this article refers to since it is very confusing otherwise? Emergency treatment with a valid EHIC is free, anything else is certainly not free unless you are paying into the system or are a retired person with residency. Spain bills the UK for treatments that are not “authorised”.

    When this person in the article said “We get an increasing number of cases of foreigners who, taking advantage of the fact that they own a home on the Costa del Sol and that their own country does not cover all that we offer in Andalucía, decide to come here” what he meant to say was: “We get an increasing number of cases from legally resident retired residents who abide by EU law and get medical treatment here.” I can understand that increasing the demand, but it’s certainly not illegal.

    I am sure a Spaniard can get treatment in the UK with a lot less fuss; the Spanish use this same argument about expats for just about everything. They even blame us for the ‘illegal builds’ and the over-building on the Costas. Spain gets billions from the EU but is always last to implement its laws – they are notorious for it.

  2. I agree with Fred, you can not get treated if you don’t have a NIE number, otherwise you have to pay!! You ask for an English speaking doctor or translator – (my Spanish does not stretch to medical terminology) and you don’t get one!! if you do they have an attitude. We live here, we pay taxes, we pay into the system, so we have a right to be treated in the country where we are resident. Their system is rubbish, the doctors are incompetent. – Personal experience!!!

  3. when will spain and the spanish appreciate what the “ex-pats” have done for their country? we come here with our money,not to scrounge and apply for benefits(unlike the flood entering the uk). if it wasnt for the ex-pats,the spanish wouldnt have the jobs,supermarkets,new hospitals,roads,infrastructure etc that they enjoy now.
    all the spanish had going for them was sun and sea. they didnt have to do anything to earn the vast sums which poured into the country in the 60’s,70’s,80’s and most of the 90’s.
    now that times are hard they should try to change their mindset and make an effort,no matter how small,to make the ex-pat community feel at home and welcome, and then maybe,just maybe,more ex-pats will come to settle here. somehow i cant see that happening. never mind.

  4. First to Fred,
    the article is not refering to residents. But people that come on holiday specifically for free treatment. Not you or me who live here.

    To Amber
    If you do live here, pay taxes, etc… its not their system, its your system. Hell I have’nt been here that long, but even with my broken spanish, i seem to get by. If you think the system if rubbish, go private and pay.

    to mike
    amazingly, spain was a major world economy before the brits starting buying homes here. I been made to feel very welcome here so far, but maybe its because I’m trying aswell?

    I also like how you all refer to ‘them/they’. If you guys live here, shoudl’nt be us/we?

  5. Migrants are an easy target, it’s true. But, if Spain wants to be viewed as a properly functioning country it should start by using spokesmen who speak sensibly and accurately, and who do not talk a load of old codswallop, like Antonio Perez does for example. Is Mr Perez saying that he will not abide by EU Law, that clearly states recripricol care for resident pensioners for example? No, of course not. Perhaps the OP should re-approach him and put that very fact to him for a reply. Should be an interesting reply lol.

    It would have been a better article if the OP had actually told their readers what the position actually is.

  6. When Mr Perez said “Spain’s health service is quick, free and offers a wide range of services,” did he mean that one could come here and get some hip replacements done whilst the people were on holiday? Duh, of course not.

    BOW, how can people who want this free treatment get it if they are not retired residents? Can you explain that to us? If Spain bills UK, as you, and I said, then it is not free. Explain please.

  7. Mr Hughes and those of the same persuasion are giving ex-pats a bad reputation. Are you that naive to actually believe what you have written!?

    Surely just by allowing so many ex-pats to enter the country they have proved you wrong, we are welcome, very much so. In all honesty if the majority of Brits think like you, I would much prefer you all to stay at home.

    Oh, but I forgot Britain is full of immigrants and loosing its identity. We can not stamp our own seal on a country and try to change centuries of customs and traditions. I am proud to call my anglo-hispanic.

    If we all pull at different directions we shall end up a divided country, look at Britian and think long hard.

  8. Sorry – as a UK expat I´m sick of hearing others complaining about the treatment (in all senses of the word) that they get here. Often they they are the same people who complain about ´immigrants´ back home. How would you feel if many thousands of wealthy forgieners took over whole parts of the south coast of England, refused to learn the language and complained that their pensions no longer afforded them the comfortable lifesyle that would be beyond their reach in the UK (and which was still far higher than the majority of the indeginous population in this area)??

    This is a beautiful country, and for the most part we are made extremely welcome here. The same cannot be said of immigrants in Britain. Get a grip, learn the language, get to know your Spanish neigbours and don´t expect to get better treatment than they do.

  9. Amber – how long have you lived here and when do you think you will learn the language?

    Fred – the right spelling is ‘reciprocal’. and why do you live in spain?

    Mike – Spain revolutionised its own health care under Franco… probably the only good thing he did, way before the brits arrived.

    I have never heard of the hoards of spanish entering the UK for its NHS treatment… what a joke! rather go to Romania.

  10. Oh I never spell check my posts Hannah. I’ve made hundreds of errors and will always make more, as will you too.

    But your post pleases me very much, for I always know that whenever a person resorts to pointing out spelling errors they have nothing to say and have lost the argument lol.

    Since you only mentioned my spelling I take it you agree with the content of my reply therefore, namely that this is a non-issue and if Spain gives people hip replacements on an EHIC then that’s their fault! Other questions you ask have already been answered many times on other threads.

  11. Exactly what argument did I loose Fred? And as I have just joined these discussions, would you mind pointing me to where you give your reason for living in Spain? Apart from that, I am not sure what other questions you are refering to.

    I also find it funny how when there is something better about Spain, you somehow twist it to blame this country again.

    I believe a solution would be that the EU only allowed the same services as your country of origin, like that Spain can continue offering better treatment without being flooded by smart shoppers. Cutting down services to the lowest denominator wouldn’t be very smart.

  12. …”Spain can continue offering better treatment without being flooded by smart shoppers”

    is a myth, dear.


    1. EHIC = emergency treatment only
    2. Resident OAP = free treatment under EU law
    3. Resident non-OAP and paying tax = treatment under EU law
    4. No EHIC, no tax and not resident OAP = treatment at discretion of hospital and bill the UK after patient signs

    It is point 4 where the problems arise. If Spain cannot work out who not to treat, then it’s Spain’s fault. Spain needs to stop tourist treatment on EHICs and define what is emergency treatment more accurately.

    You don’t know how your country works lol. I say “your” country because you said earlier that you were born here, remember? Who knows what you are talking about.

  13. Hannah – don’t take any notice of Fred, he’s one of these people that just likes an argument for the sake of it. If you look back over many revious threads you’ll see that he’s argued with everyone at some point.

    You can never win with him though, he’s one of these people that will never admit he’s wrong. If you box him in he’ll just ignore the question or change the subject.

    I think the OP just allows his posts because they realise that this is probably all he’s got!

  14. Hannah – don’t take any notice of Chris, he’s one of these people who posts something and then makes a U-turn as soon as someone questions him about it. He’ll also try to tell you all about living and working in Spain even though he doesn’t even live here, and he never makes any interesting posts about anything, so needless to say, you can just completley ignore anything he writes, and instead have a good debate with me. Chris ges very frustrated with my replies and the OP have to let him post a few pathetic replies from time to time in order to sooth his dented ego lol.

  15. getting a NIE number on the other hand is probably the most humiliating and degrading experience anyone will suffer at the hands of the arrogant, impertinent and totally zenophobic spanish national police whi think that all NIE applicants are still colonial slaves and should be treated accordingly. You can now download the application form on the internet but you still need to turn up at 6 or 7 am and queue in fron the closed National Police NIE office until amongst a herd of immigrants from just about every former colony that spain exploited even though you are an EU citizen and are entitled to residence in Spain whithout formality under the 2003 Spanish Decree and EU law. After queuing for hours you may be lucky to get a ticket to queue again to eventually pick up a form to make the specific payment for the application that the local police station has determined as they see fit. It varies from station to station. It is obvious that the treatment is served up to prevent EU citizens who are investors in Spain from queuing with a view to getting them to use an expensive lawyer who can do it on their behalf which is said to be the quickest way. In Third world countries this is a well established practice to get documents, licences etc. whereby the acting agent hand over part of his fee as a bakshish to get immediately what others have to wait for for weeks if not months. In Spain everything still functions on this level the only people who don’t know it are the spanish media because they of course do not have to queue to get their IDs like NIF etc.
    Most expats have invested hundreds of thousands of euros in spain and they cannot even buy a car or open a bank account without NIE which in fact has only recently been introduced as ten years ago you could do everything without a NIE because spain was keen to attract money but now spain does not need expats anymore they get all the money they need from the EU. By the way the service in the spanish hospitals is abominable you can literally die from your condition while you wait for hours for a student doctor to click endlessly on a computer to try and find out what’s wrong with you and then hand you the printouts with prescriptions for spanish made drugs which are likely do kill you off. Our baby was prescribed medicine which in accordance with the manufacturers instructions are strictly prohibited for children under 12 years of age. Our baby was 9 months old. If you trust a spanish doctor you might as well go to a soothsayer and avoid the queues.
    Presently there are probably about 1 million expats who cannot go back home because they cannot sell their properties……

  16. As a very new visitor to your site I was surprised and shocked to read the offensive comment written by a contributor who names himself Oingo Boingo (oct. 23rd 2009).
    Is it really necessary to allow such explicit language to make a point.

  17. The OP have very kindly removed the C-word Rosaleen. I actually preferred the other word to “idiot” however, lol. The OP should just have removed the post in its entirety – poor judgement there Jon (Ed). I love Oingo’s posts, always a good laugh from a childlike mind.

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