Letter to the Editor of ABC from HM Ambassador Giles Paxman
Spanish national daily ABC published a letter to the editor from HM Ambassador Giles Paxman rejecting suggestions that the British Embassy is encouraging “health tourism”.
Please find the English version of the letter below.
I am writing with regard to your recent reports criticising the advice on the British Embassy website regarding access to healthcare in Spain and the work of the NGO Age Concern España..
The British Government does not condone or encourage “health tourism”. British nationals visiting or residing in Spain are of course entitled to access the Spanish healthcare system, just as Spanish nationals in the UK are entitled to access the British healthcare system. The advice on our website and that given by Age Concern España aims to ensure that they do so in full compliance with Spanish and European legislation.
British visitors make up approximately 24% of the total number of tourists visiting Spain. It is in the clear interest of both the UK and Spain that they should receive medical attention if they urgently need it. By ensuring that they know how to access the Spanish healthcare system, we can avoid unnecessary administrative costs for both Spain and the UK, and ensure that the UK can reimburse Spain accurately and efficiently in line with the specific provisions set out in EU legislation. The Embassy website advice makes clear that the European Health Insurance Card does not cover those who come to Spain for the specific purpose of health treatment.
There are also many British nationals resident in Spain. The aim of our website advice is to ensure that if they need to access the Spanish healthcare system, they do so in full compliance with Spanish legislation. Registration on the “Padron” facilitates this and is a requirement of Spanish law.
Age Concern España provides a fundamental lifeline for British and other English-speaking elderly residents who are isolated, in poor health and in urgent need of help. The charity closely collaborates with Spanish authorities via the British Consulates, taking on cases where language is a barrier, thus reducing demands on Spanish social services. In addition, a significant part of Age Concern’s work involves helping to repatriate British nationals, who for one reason another can no longer financially support themselves in Spain and have to return to the UK. It is not part of their work to help British citizens access benefits to which they are not entitled.
Her Majesty’s Ambassador