"NHS refunds eye surgery done abroad“, Bob Hinton says.

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[:en]Bob Hinton, UK, suffered from deteriorating eyesight. He decided to have his surgery abroad instead of having to wait months for it at home. After coming back home he applied to the NHS for a refund and got his money back. Now he has decided to share his experience.

Bob, how would you describe your health issue?

I had cataracts in both eyes, very severe in my right eye, but deteriorating fast in my left.

How long have you been dealing with it?

About three years. I was advised to put myself down for the operation on the NHS.

Did you see a specialist about it back home?

I was on the waiting list but they couldn’t tell me how long it would be for the operation, they just said 18 months to 2 years or longer.

Did you consider getting a surgery done back home?

I went on the list because my eyesight was getting really bad. I had to use two sets of glasses: one for close up and the other for distance. I tried to get the operation done privately but just for one eye, I was looking at about £2000.

What role does the National Health System, NHS, play?

I did contact the NHS about having surgery done abroad and they told me that it was allowed and that certain procedures could be claimed for after surgery. I informed my local Health Board and was told certain operations needed clearance before going abroad but some operations like cataracts were pre-cleared. The NHS is split up into various health authorities, so each district in the UK has a different one. As I live in Wales I had a different one to England, but they would all be much the same.

Who talked you through the operation abroad?

I was in Prague to see an André Rieu Concert in May, so I made inquiries about getting the operation done then. They were so helpful explaining all the options at Praga Medica and giving me an idea of the cost, which was nowhere near what it would cost me to get one eye operated on privately. They also offered the support package which was very helpful, giving me a personal assistant, accompanying me to the medicals and the operation, even found and booked me a hotel and arranged transport from the airport to my hotel and provided me with a cell phone.

Right after the surgery.

How did your surgery go?

The actual surgery was incredible. The surgeon made sure I was okay and even gave me a cuddly toy for stress! He explained exactly what he was doing and much to my surprise it was all over in a couple of minutes – I was expecting much longer. It was so professional and efficient. All the staff was fantastic.

How long was your stay?

I had the first operation on Wednesday, a check-up on Thursday, second operation on Friday with a check-up on Saturday (my birthday). So I got to revisit my favourite city, saw an André Rieu concert and then got my sight back, what a wonderful experience.

What was the process after you came back home?

On my return I had to follow a regimen of eye drops several times a day to ward off infection, I suppose.

How long did it take you to get your money back?

I contacted my health authority, emailed them all my receipts for the operation and within the week got full reimbursement. Everyone was a winner, I got my sight back and I could cross myself off the very long waiting list and the NHS didn’t have to perform the operation. (UK citizens may seek funding for procedures in the European Economic Area (EEA) countries either via the EU Directive route or S2 route.  The payment conditions, treatment facility, and application processes vary slightly, but the bottom line is if you comply you’ll receive payment for partial or full coverage. More information here)

“Me sitting in a restaurant wearing sombrero after an operation on the left eye! My wife saw the sombrero hanging on the wall and dared me to wear it – silly girl!”

So you were fortunate, weren’t you?

I don’t know if I was fortunate with my Health Authority but the ladies who dealt with me were fantastic, sending me all the forms I needed, talking me through the process, and effectively holding my hand.

Would you recommend it to other patients?

I would recommend this to everyone who is in my situation; the wonderful professional team that was assembled to take care of you all the way was fantastic. After my medical for my eyes they handed me the invoice to be paid. I noticed they had reduced it by 200 Euros. They explained that the original quote was based on the information I had sent them, but after the extremely thorough examination, they realised I didn’t need certain procedures so reduced the invoice accordingly. How honest and trustworthy is that? After my right eye was operated on they put a pad on it and told me to leave it until the following morning before removing it. They did say my sight might be a bit blurry for a couple of days. The next morning I removed the pad and stood looking out of the window. I could actually see aerials on buildings half a mile away – before the operation I couldn’t even see the buildings.

Thank you so much for giving me my sight back.