Spanish A&Es are forcing Britons who fall ill on holiday to pay up front for treatment despite EU insurance scheme

  • Hospitals in tourist resorts have installed machines to collect payment
  • Hundreds of British holidaymakers said they were forced to pay for care
  • Patients in popular resorts of Benidorm and Alicante face hefty bills
  • Boy impaled on fence asked to hand over cash before treatment

British holidaymakers needing emergency treatment at Spanish accident and emergency units are being greeted by chip-and-pin machines as doctors force them to pay upfront for care that should be free.
Hospitals in tourist towns including Alicante and Benidorm have installed the instant payment devices even though Spain faces a hefty fine for refusing to accept European health insurance cards.
The cards entitle EU citizens to emergency treatment for free, with the costs being reimbursed by the recipient’s home country.

But hard-up Spain has been flouting the arrangement, with the country’s politicians blaming tourists and expats for putting strain on its health service.
Twenty-five payment machines have been installed throughout the Costa Brava and Valencia, with six in A&E departments and the rest in outpatient clinics.
They are also being trialled in Navarra, a wine-growing region in the north.

Officially, the machines are meant to be used to charge only patients ‘without the right to [free] treatment’.

Health minister Manuel Llombart said they were introduced because hospitals were having problems chasing up bills.
But hundreds of Britons have complained of being charged.

Patients at the ever-popular resort of Benidorm are confronted by charges for hospital care

Josh Fryer Bloom, 15, impaled himself on a spiked fence and ruptured his groin.
Blood was pouring out as he limped into the A&E at Benalmadena near Malaga with his mother Samantha Fryer.
They refused treatment when faced with a demand for €450 (387) but found a private clinic that treated him for just €35.
Mrs Fryer, from London, said: ‘I am appalled. I would expect this sort of thing to happen in the US, but not in the EU to a British citizen.’

Cash-strapped Spain claimed tourists and expats were an extra strain on its health service

A new law that came into force last September removed full healthcare rights for 873,000 working-age foreigners who had not registered to pay income tax.
Some were people who had retired early and been given Spanish health cards as inducements to buy property in the boom years.
But under the new rules, there have even been reports of Britons having cancer treatment stopped halfway through.
A European Commission spokesman said Spain adopted new guidance on accepting European health cards last month.
A substantial fine could follow if the EC is not satisfied with its actions.