Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld
Chapter 36: Child medical tourism: a new phenomenon
AbstractThough there has been much focus on medical tourism in research and the wider media, research about child medical tourism remains limited; however, many of the reflections on global medical tourism and children travelling will be relevant to adults. Although the numbers of cases of children travelling abroad are difficult to quantify, medical tourism for children occurs for a wide variety of medical conditions and ailments. This includes: travelling to receive novel treatments such as stem cell or proton beam therapy for cancer; bariatric surgery (i.e. gastric banding); and families travelling abroad for investigations, diagnoses, opinions or a holistic/alternative approach to managing commonly seen clinical problems in the UK. Therefore, an understanding of which groups of children are travelling abroad (and for what reasons) is necessary to assess, understand and manage the full extent of this phenomenon. This chapter will focus primarily on the movement of children travelling abroad from the UK for healthcare interventions and the impact that this has on the National Health Service, but will develop concepts that are relevant to other healthcare systems. The concept of child medical tourism raises many issues. What benefits or risks does such tourism bring to the child, family and the NHS? How do healthcare professionals evaluate the quality and effectiveness of investigations and treatments initiated abroad? What impact do they have on the care and management provided to the child on return to the UK, and how confident are they in engaging with these children and their families?
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