The government is warning holidaymakers to make sure they have adequate travel insurance when they head abroad this year.
The Foreign Office says that the importance of arranging proper cover has been highlighted by new statistics which show that 10 British tourists a day end up needing hospital treatment overseas.
Rise in number seeking assistance
Official figures for 2011-12 showed that there had been a 3 per cent increase in the number of UK travellers needing consular assistance in other countries, with 19,874 seeking help between 1 April 2011 and the end of March this year.
During the period, an average of 70 people a week were hospitalised while abroad. Almost a third of these cases were in Spain — predominantly on the Balearic islands of Mallorca and Ibiza.
A spokesman said that this was to a large extent due to teenage holidaymakers being involved in road accidents and balcony incidents.
But a Foreign Office survey found that almost half of people it surveyed did not realise that they would be liable to foot their own medical bills if they were taken ill or injured abroad and had no travel insurance in place.
Don’t take the risk
Minister for consular services, Jeremy Browne, said: "While the prospect of ending up in a foreign hospital may be the last thing on your mind as you head overseas for a summer break, sometimes things do go wrong on holiday and many people deeply regret not taking out comprehensive travel insurance.
"We witness many cases where people have invalidated their policy – perhaps by not declaring a pre-existing medical condition or not checking their policy covers a particular activity, such as hiring a moped. Unfortunately they are then surprised that the Foreign Office cannot pay for their bills and flight home.
"I urge anyone heading overseas this summer to research their destination, take out comprehensive travel insurance, and carefully check the small print of their policy."
Do your homework
The Foreign Office added that travellers should ensure they check whether their destination has any health requirements, such as vaccinations or malaria medication.
A spokesman added: "An emergency abroad can be extremely expensive: medical treatment can cost thousands of pounds and last year consular staff witnessed a number of distressing cases involving families having to raise vast sums of money to pay hospital and repatriation bills."