1 in 3 Holidaymakers Could be Turned Away from European Hospitals

John and Sylvia Flanner from Solihull, West Midlands found this out the hard way when they took a holiday to Greece without an EHIC. They didn’t expect their trip to Zante to end in a trip to the hospital. Luckily, Allianz Global Assistance UK stepped in to assist the family through the emergency, underlining the value of adequate travel insurance cover, as well as the EHIC.


John, aged 66, has been blind since the age of 19.  He was awarded an MBE in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honour awards for services to Diversity and Equality, for his motivational speeches on living with a disability.  However, when Sylvia, aged 64, suddenly developed a virus on holiday, which culminated in her having a stroke and being rushed to the local hospital, he was presented with a completely new challenge; the Flanners were travelling without an EHIC, and the hospital’s medical team was reluctant to provide treatment.


The EHIC is available to all UK residents and allows travellers to receive treatment from public hospitals within the EEA. The EHIC allows travellers to get treatment on the same basis (for example, free or at a reduced cost) as people who live in that country. Holidaymakers need both their EHIC and travel insurance, as EHIC does not cover all medical costs, dental treatment or the cost of repatriation.


John’s blindness, coupled with the language barrier, made it very difficult for him to communicate with the medical team, adding to an already highly stressful situation. The Flanner’s son, Ian had no choice but to urgently fly to Greece. He also contacted his father’s insurance company, Allianz Global Assistance UK, which took immediate pressure off the family, by sorting out the EHIC for Ian’s parents. The Allianz Global Assistance UK team remained on hand throughout the coming days to assist the Flanner family, providing peace of mind at every step of the ordeal.


When a relative is hospitalised abroad, it is not uncommon for family members to be responsible for the day to day care of the patient and some facilities are equipped with a call button should the family need medical assistance or additional support during the period of hospitalisation. Rather than put more pressure on his blind father, Ian contacted the British Consulate and 24/7 nursing cover for Sylvia was quickly arranged. It was soon clear that the best solution for Sylvia was to repatriate her to the UK as soon as she was medically fit to fly and Allianz Global Assistance arranged an Air Taxi repatriation, flying Sylvia and John to Birmingham Airport and on to her local hospital.


Ian says, “I’ve done lots of travelling, but I’ve never heard of the EHIC. Allianz Global Assistance provided a first class service from start to finish; arranging the EHICs for my parents, as well as a doctor, who travelled with my mother from Birmingham airport, to the hospital in Solihull. This incident has really highlighted the importance of buying good travel insurance before you travel. I dread to think what could have happened, if Allianz Global Assistance hadn’t been on hand to help us through this situation. We will make sure we all carry our EHIC with us for trips to Europe, as well as buying insurance – just in case.”


Lee Taylor, Chief Sales Officer for Allianz Global Assistance UK comments, “The Flanner family were fortunate that Allianz Global Assistance was able to help them. This story underlines just how important it is to travel with an EHIC and adequate travel insurance cover, yet our survey shows that 1 in 3 UK travellers don’t take an EHIC with them to Europe.  This puts them at huge risk, if they need medical care abroad. An EHIC card is essential for anyone to receive treatment from public hospitals in all European Economic Area countries


“We also urge holidaymakers to ensure they book the right level of travel insurance, declaring all medical conditions, as falling ill or needing emergency support abroad can be very costly. Travellers need to be aware of the risks they face, whether that’s delayed or cancelled flights, lost luggage or something more serious such as an accident or illness.  Only by having adequate travel insurance cover provides financial support, as well as expert advice when you need it most, as the Flanner family discovered.”

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