At Postcard Travel Insurance, we understand that having to seek medical attention abroad can be extremely frightening and stressful. This is why we have created the following guide to help you cope in such a situation, and to understand how our 24 hour emergency assistance service can work on your behalf.
We would also suggest you read our Philosophies, which outline how we work and why when someone falls ill abroad.
Who are Emergency Assistance Facilities?
– Postcard’s appointed emergency medical assistance team is called Emergency Assistance Facilities or EAF.
– EAF are a doctor managed emergency medical service, which are available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
– You can contact EAF in an emergency by calling +44 (0) 203 824 0708. You can also email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
– EAF pride themselves on clinical excellence, with a team comprising of specialists in aviation medicine and medical emergencies worldwide.
– If you need medical treatment abroad, (unless it’s an extreme emergency,) you should call EAF prior to going to hospital so that they can advise you on the best place to seek treatment.
– You can contact an ambulance around the world by calling 112.
What to do in case of an Medical Emergency Abroad
When you call our medical assistance service in an emergency you need to have some basic information for them to hand:
– Your telephone number, so you can be contacted in case you are cut off.
– The name and age of the patient and as much information about the medical situation as possible.
– The name of the hospital, the ward, the treating doctor and the telephone numbers if you have them.
– Tell them that you have a Posctard policy, policy number, the date you bought it and your booked travel dates.
– The patient’s UK GP details, name, address and phone number (in case more information on current medical conditions and treatment is needed).
When you contact EAF you’ll speak to a member of the operations team, they will ask the basics of your case, and allocate you a case number. If necessary, they’ll confirm that you’re insured and provide the hospital or clinic with appropriate billing instructions. Your case may be referred to one of the doctors on the team who may contact you further to ascertain the exact nature of your injury or illness and then put in place the appropriate strategy to ensure that you receive the correct treatment and, if required, advice on your repatriation.
Making sure you Receive Optimal Care
Access to the best available care for our customers in a medical situation has and always will come before convenience or cost. Your health and wellbeing are our number one priority, and so we have outlined below how we ensure you receive optimal care;
– Assisting you to get the best possible clinical outcome is the only thing we consider regarding where you might be best to receive medical treatment. That is one of the reasons why we ask you to call EAF as soon as practically possible when seeking treatment abroad.
– Although many private clinics offer hotel like luxury (making the facility seem ‘better’), in our experience many private clinics around the world either offer inadequate medical resources, and/or operate a culture of overtreatment using unnecessary procedures and investigations. Both can be incredibly dangerous for the patient.
– Furthermore, unlike in the United Kingdom, where both Private and Public Hospitals are regulated in the same way by the same entity, Private medical facilities in some parts of the world remain unregulated.
– Taking all this into consideration, if we feel it is in your best interest, we may consider transferring you to a public hospital. Again, this will never be about saving money or avoiding a claim, it will always be to ensure you receive the most suitable care in order to achieve an optimal medical outcome.
– Please note, some private hospitals will also demand an upfront payment, a credit card or your passport before even considering a medical assessment – regardless of how injured or ill you are when you arrive. Never surrender your credit card or passport to anyone. Ask yourself the question, is it moral to demand guarantee of payment before beginning to diagnose and treat?
– Read more about Optimal Care here.
How to Pay for your Treatment
– If you require treatment as an out-patient (usually involving minor ailments which entail a visit to the local chemist, doctor or clinic) you should pay any bill less than £500, obtain an itemised receipt and contact our claims department on your return home for compensation. If the bill is over £500, make sure you have contacted EAF, who will liaise with the hospital. If you cannot afford to pay the bill, contact EAF immediately.
– If you need to see a doctor in Europe you should show them your EHIC (which replaced the old E111 card), medical treatment will be free or at a reduced cost and we’ll reduce your base policy excess to NIL.
– The hospital or doctor should send the rest of their bills to Travel Claims Facilities at: 1 Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4UY, UK. Our medical assistance service will explain this procedure to them and provide them with the appropriate billing instructions, if necessary, once the validity of your claim has been established.
Getting you Home
If you’ve had to seek emergency medical treatment abroad, you’ll naturally want to get home as quickly as possible – and we will want to get you home, but we won’t make arrangements until it is safe for you to travel. Below is further information on the repatriation (getting you home) process:
– If you were to suffer an injury or illness in the UK, your doctor would be unlikely to recommend that you hop on a plan and go on holiday a few days later. The same by reverse is true. There should be a period of stability and recuperation before transporting patients back to the UK. The difference is that in the UK once you are discharged you are usually able to return to your home without the need to be placed into an aviation environment. It is possible that our medical team therefore may recommend that you stay in resort following treatment until they consider that the risks of bring you back are acceptable to protect your short term and long term clinical outcome.
– Your treating doctor may say it is safe for you to return home and even fly, but our specially trained and experienced Doctors will review your case, and decide whether it is safe for you to travel and by which method, based on; expert medical advice, clinical fact, aviation medicine and our extensive experience of transporting unwell holidaymakers across the globe.
– If our Doctors advise you to stay in your destination for a little longer before it is safe for you to travel, we will arrange accommodation for you and keep you updated on the plans to get you home.
– Once it is safe to do so, our repatriation team will make any and all necessary travel arrangements to get you home. In the vast majority of cases, this will be by commercial flight (we’ll book you extra leg room and get you support throughout the airport if necessary).
– Air Ambulances, are only used in exceptional circumstances and only when we are transferring patients from one medical facility to another, or where the risk of remaining where you are outweighs the risk of an Air Ambulance; remember aviation at any level comes with significant risk when someone is unwell. You can read more about repatriation and Air Ambulances here.
– Once home you have three months to settle in and then submit your claim for any expenses you may have incurred at the hospital. Find out more on making a claim here.
More information can be found in your policy wording or in the tabs below.
Our first priority is always the safety and well-being of our customers, followed closely by excellent customer service. To make sure we meet your expectations it is important that you know what EAF and your policy can do for you;
What to expect….
– We will work with your best medical interest at the centre of every decision we make.
– We may not need to call you every day, but we will call you when we have updates on your case.
– We will manage your expectations, however please bear in mind that medical situations can change very quickly and so sometimes things change that are outside of our control.
– Because we are a 24/7 operation we cannot guarantee that the same person will handle your case throughout, but where possible we try to so that you have a familiar voice to speak to.
– We know that you want to get home at the earliest opportunity, however we want to get you home safely and that doesn’t always mean it’ll be right away. Therefore, our aviation medical experts may recommend an extended stay in the hospital (or a local hotel) until your condition has stabilized sufficiently to allow your safe return home.
– Air Ambulances, are only used in exceptional circumstances and only when we are transferring patients from one medical facility to another, aviation at any level comes with significant risk when someone is unwell.
– We may move you from a private facility (if you have not been admitted to a state registered hospital) where the standard of treatment might be inadequate or the price of treatment inflated for tourists.
Important things to remember
– It will not always be possible for the 24 hour emergency assistance service doctor to call you back straight away, this could because he is awaiting further information from the treating doctor or hospital. This does not mean that you have been forgotten, and wherever possible a member of the operations team will keep you regularly updated.
– Although the local doctor might discharge you from hospital and suggest that you can return home, there are regulations imposed by airlines regarding when you can, and cannot fly following a serious accident or an operation. The Emergency Assistance Facilities team are experts in aviation medicine, and the decision as to when it is safe for you to fly home should be left in their hands.
– Always remember that your travel insurance does not cover the cost of private medical treatment unless it has been approved by Emergency Assistance Facilities.
– Unfortunately, due to the emergency nature of their work, EAF do not have time to discuss your condition with or update multiple people. Therefore, we suggest that you nominate one person to be the contact point for the 24 hour emergency assistance service, this will ensure that they are not trying to explain matters to numerous people, which simply causes confusion and delay for everyone concerned. This person can then keep the rest of your family updated.
For more information please visit our dedicated Philosophies page.
Below is a checklist of things you should know and do before you leave home:
– Put EAF’s phone number into your phone before you start your holiday – this should ensure you can contact them at any time, even if you don’t have your travel insurance paper work handy. We would also suggest that you store your policy number in your phone too.
– Make sure that your phone has plenty of credit and charge throughout your holiday.
– Many people don’t realize that their phones aren’t set up to accept incoming calls or texts abroad – check with your phone provider that your phone will work abroad, otherwise you will have no means of contact.
– If you’re travelling in Europe please make sure you have a valid EHIC, which replaced the old E111. The EHIC is free of charge and will provide discounted or free medical treatment and medication in most state European facilities. If you use your EHIC we will waive your medical excess.
– Make sure you have declared any medical conditions to us, to make sure you’re fully covered – if your health or medication have changed since you purchased the policy, please contact us.
– We would also suggest you read our Philosophies, which outline how we work and why when someone falls ill abroad.
What happens if I miss my booked flight home due to illness?
Don’t worry, provided you have contacted our medical assistance service your policy will be automatically extended to cover you until it is agreed that you are fit to travel, they will make appropriate alternative arrangements.
What if you want to come home early?
This policy covers you to come home early because you are ill only if medical treatment is not available locally. If you are thinking of cutting short your trip because you are not well then you must contact our medical assistance service for advice first.
If you need to come home for any other reason, such as the illness of a close relative in the UK then you should make your own arrangements, bearing in mind your duty to act at all times as if uninsured. If you are not sure whether your particular circumstances are included in the cover then call Travel Claims Facilities between 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm Saturdays (UK time) for advice.
If you have any further questions regarding our emergency assistance team please feel free to contact our customer service department.
What is the ‘tourist trap’?
*The ‘tourist trap’ refers to certain privately owned medical clinics around the world who seek to ‘trap’ tourists by inflating medical bills in the hope of getting paid by the tourist or their travel insurance. These clinics usually pay taxi drivers, hotels and hostels to send any injured tourists to their clinics, they then charge extortionate rates without providing appropriate care for their patients. To protect yourself against falling into the trap, always make sure you visit a state facility, and under no circumstances should you ever give your credit card details or surrender your passport to anyone.
I’m travelling to Europe, why do I need insurance if I have an EHIC?
The EHIC should never be a substitute for travel insurance, although it should offer you free or discounted medical treatment and prescriptions in most state EU facilities, it will not cover the cost of repatriation – for example if you have missed your return flight home and need to book a new one.