London, Oct 28 (UNI) Thousands of Britons are flying to India for medical treatment to escape NHS waiting lists and the rising threat of hospital superbugs.
India is among the favourite destinations among the patients as several hospitals have screening policies for the superbug MRSA that is yet to be introduced here, Telegraph newspaper reported.
Low prices in India, where flights, hotels and a heart bypass cost less than half the price charged by British private hospitals, explain its top ranking in the survey by Treatment Abroad.
Hospitals charged 20-50 per cent less than private British clinics. In Madras, a single knee replacement cost 4,200 dollars, compared with 9,500 dollars in Britain.
Health tour operator, Taj Medical Group, pointed superbug infections as a key reason for British population seeking treatment abroad. Last year, it arranged treatment and travel for 400 Britons.
TMG director Jagdish Jethwa said, ''They leave Britain because they are fed up with long NHS queues, or have had appointments cancelled three or four times. Some go because they are scared of rising MRSA rates and know a friend or relative who has been infected in a British hospital.'' Heart bypass operations typically cost 5,300 dollars including the cost of transport and accommodation, compared with 14,000 dollars in Britain.
Health tourism in India was expected to be worth 1.1 billion pounds by the beginning of the next decade. Last year, an estimated 150,000 foreigners visited India for medical procedures, and the number was increasing at the rate of about 15 per cent a year.
All India's major private hospital groups reported a growing number of foreign patients, of whom around 20 per cent are from Europe.
More than 70,000 Britons would have treatment abroad this year, a figure that is forecast to rise to almost 200,000 by the end of the decade.
Research by the Treatment Abroad website shows that Britons have travelled to 112 foreign hospitals, based in 48 countries, to find safe and affordable treatment.
More than 39 per cent of them wanted to combine treatment with holiday.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients' Association, said the health tourism figures reflected shrinking public faith in the Government's handling of the NHS. ''The confidence that the public has in NHS hospitals has been shattered by the growth of hospital infections,'' she said, adding that people were frightened of going to NHS hospitals.
The threat of contracting a fatal superbug, and despair over hospital waiting times are fuelling a boom in health tourism, with Britons turning to overseas hospitals in growing numbers.
Hungary, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, Poland and Spain are also attracting lot of patients.
Hungary's popularity rests on a boom in dentistry.
Patients needing major heart surgery, hip operations and cataracts are using the internet to book operations to be carried out thousands of miles away.