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Getting Laser Eye Surgery Abroad

One of the biggest factors when deciding whether to get laser eye surgery is the cost. For many people, laser eye surgery is a significant investment. And now the General Medical Council (GMC) has outlawed pushy laser eye surgery deals, some people look abroad to bag a bargain.

So which are the cheapest countries for eye surgery treatment? How much do you really save? And how safe is seeking eye surgery overseas?

In this article you will learn:

  1. The Real Costs Of Laser Eye Surgery Abroad
  2. What About Any Additional Costs?
  3. Risks Involved
  4. Should I Get Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?
  5. What Are the Alternatives?

1. Cost Of Laser Eye Surgery Abroad

The cost of laser eye surgery itself can be lower if you travel to popular destinations such as India and Thailand. In the cheapest countries, you could pay up to a third what eye surgery costs back home.

The table below shows you the cost of laser eye surgery prices in popularly searched countries around the world, compared to the UK.

Country Price Per Eye
United Kingdom From £955
Czech Republic From £315
Hungary From £377
Turkey From £680
India From £750
Thailand From £1,200

As you can see, getting laser eye surgery abroad can be considerably less expensive than in the UK, with European countries like the Czech Republic and Hungary offering very cheap laser eye surgery. This is often due to a number of factors including a lower cost of living, as well as a beneficial exchange rate. 

So is it worth it? Not always. Bear in mind that these lower prices may also reflect the lesser qualifications and experience of the surgeons compared to those who have trained in the UK, and are registered with professional bodies.

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2. What About Any Additional Costs?

Yes, the laser eye surgery itself may be cheaper abroad. But – and this a big but – there are a number of additional costs that can stop you from saving as much as you though. As these extra costs stack up, you may find the total cost of surgery abroad even more expensive than in the UK.

Below are just some of the additional costs to consider:

  • Flights: for the countries mentioned, a return ticket could cost you over £500 per person (remember it’s recommended to have someone accompany you from the clinic).
  • Accommodation: you could pay up to £200 per night for accommodation abroad, depending on your budget. It is also important to remember that you will need to arrive in the country a few days before your surgery, and it is advised that you do not fly for at least a week post-surgery, so the cost of accommodation could really mount up.
  • Insurance: when travelling abroad for medical treatment, you will not be covered on standard travel insurance. You will need to take out additional medical insurance which can cost anywhere between £47 and £180. If complications do arise from the surgery, those who have not specified that they were travelling for medical purposes will not be entitled to financial assistance.
  • Days off work: this cost will vary from person to person, and will also depend if you use any accumulated holiday days. If you take unpaid leave, this could mean you lose a significant proportion of your monthly income.

Follow-up appointments with your surgeon may also require you to return to the country where you had your laser eye surgery, meaning that the costs of flights, accommodation, insurance and days off work will not be one-off expense. This should be factored into your overall cost calculation.

Risks to Getting Laser Eye Surgery Abroad

So is it dangerous to seek laser eye surgery abroad? Plenty of people have traveled overseas for vision correction treatment, and come home happy. But the latest studies from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) report a higher risk of complications outside the UK.

That’s because there tend to be fewer healthcare regulations in many destinations where surgery is cheaper, and language barriers and difficulties in receiving aftercare can complicate things further.

Below are the key questions to ask to ensure your eye surgery abroad will be safe:

  • What are the surgeon’s qualifications? There is no compulsory regulatory body for laser eye surgery, meaning it is difficult to know what training your surgeon has had, and who has accredited their skills. In the UK, however, laser eye surgeons must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in order to practice, meaning tighter checks are in place. This means that surgeons approved to perform laser eye surgery in foreign clinics may not be as well trained or experienced than those registered with UK bodies. This is bad news for laser eye surgery patients, as studies have shown a direct link between the combined experience of surgeons at a clinic and the successful outcomes of laser eye treatment.
  • Will I meet the surgeon before the day of my surgery? Due to the time constraints placed on surgery because of travel, most surgeons only offer online consultations before the procedure. This means you will not be able to meet your surgeon face-to-face before the day of the surgery, which removes that important opportunity to build a relationship with them.
  • Do the staff at the clinic speak English? Although some clinics, doctors and surgeons have experience of treating international patients and speak English, not all will. This language barrier may make it difficult for you to effectively communicate with them, which could lead to problems.
  • Has the surgeon and clinic got good reviews? You should be able to check this online before you choose a clinic or surgeon. Reviews form former patients provide an excellent indication of whether others have been happy with their procedure.
  • Does the country have healthcare regulations? Some countries have fewer regulations and lower standards of healthcare compared to the UK. Many patients who have travelled abroad to have laser eye surgery have reported not being satisfied with the level of care they received, with the reliability and empathy of the surgical team cited as one of the primary reasons for feeling disappointed. Additionally, complications from surgery such as epithelial in-growth, corneal ectasia, and dislocation of the flap during laser eye surgery surgery, have been found to have occurred more in surgeries performed abroad.
  • Is there a surgeon in the UK I can see should I have problems following surgery? That depends. Some clinics abroad have arrangements with British clinics should you require any checks following your surgery, but many do not. This can make it difficult to get the aftercare you need if any problems arise post-surgery, and in some cases you may need to travel back to the country where you had surgery to receive the appropriate care.

4. Should I Get Laser Eye Surgery Abroad?

Many people find it’s better not to risk it. Of course, you may strike lucky with a professional laser eye surgery abroad and a trusted surgeon. But it’s not guaranteed, and all official ophthalmic bodies will recommend staying in the UK, where you can check the safety of clinics with the CQC.

On top of that, you probably won’t save as much as you thought. Once you tally up the full costs, the overall price likely won’t different from the UK. And should any complications arise from your surgery, it will also be much easier to meet with the surgeon who performed the procedure in the UK rather than abroad.

Getting laser eye surgery abroad is certainly not a decision that should be made quickly. Staying closer to home for your vision correction treatment would be safer – and may even be more cost-effective.

5. What Are the Alternatives?

getting surgery abroad
So what are the safest ways to save on laser eye surgery? The good news is many of the UK’s leading eye surgery clinics offer no-interest finance packages, so you can find cheaper laser eye surgery for the price of a couple of cinema tickets a month. Usually, clinics overseas prefer to have all costs settled in advance or on the day of treatment.

Only you can decide if seeking laser eye surgery abroad is right for you. But make sure you have explored all options and weighed up the pros and cons before making an informed decision. It’s a good idea to talk through all your options with an eye expert, and receive a tailored quote from a top-voted clinic by former patients.

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