10 March 2009

Britons are being warned against seeking medical or cosmetic surgery procedures in Europe, as they could be treated by "dangerous" doctors. The Guardian reports that new laws in the EU mean that patients could be refused access to medical records and the disciplinary history of incompetent medical professionals.The UK's General Medical Council (GMC) has started a lobbying campaign which would pressure officials to make disclosure on records automatic in the health tourism industry across the EU. They warn that patients could be seriously injured if the "dangerous loophole" in the law is passed. Many Britons are tempted to seek medical and cosmetic surgery treatments abroad, as the cheaper cost of healthcare elsewhere in Europe, paired with long UK waiting lists, is attractive for many seeking cosmetic procedures, minor surgery and fertility treatment. Paul Philip, deputy chief executive of the GMC, told the Guardian: "The vast majority of doctors do a very good job under very difficult circumstances. However, when UK patients travel to mainland Europe, there is a risk they could be treated by a doctor who is not fit to practice or not fully qualified to give the required treatment." He added: "Anecdotally, we know some patients have been harmed already. It's time to close this dangerous loophole." In the past, experts have warned against seeking bargain cosmetic procedures abroad in countries like India, Hungary, Turkey and Poland, which are all popular destinations for those seeking medical treatment overseas. The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons has noted that one in four cosmetic surgery procedures abroad have led to patients returning home with complaints and side effects that required emergency surgery.