AN EXHIBITION on health tourism showcasing 120 clinics from around the world offering everything from heart surgery to nose reshaping, opens this weekend in London.
Organisers of the event at Olympia claim more than 100,000 people are now seeking surgery abroad each year, and the number will double by 2010.
Fertility treatment, cosmetic surgery and weight loss operations are among the most popular procedures, while the shortage of dentists in Britain means dental treatment overseas is increasingly popular, and can cost half the price of care here.
Research by medical website Treatment Abroad found Britons cited fear of superbugs, cheaper prices, and lack of waiting lists as some of the reasons for travelling to foreign destinations.
Clinics with stands at the Health Tourism Show include a centre in Barcelona that will do heart surgery for prices from £4,500 a £4,000 saving on typical British fees. A clinic in Malta offers nose reshaping for just under £3,000, including flights and hotel.
Other procedures include teeth whitening in Cyprus, MRI scans in Norway, weight loss surgery in Tunisia and IVF in Istanbul. Philip Archbold, a director of Treatment Abroad a sponsor of the show said the event would offer balanced information.
"Patients need to do the research. We urge people to check infection rates and the surgeon performing the operation. If [the information] is not available, go somewhere else. You have to check the place you are going to does what it says on the tin," he added.
Some of the overseas clinics represented at the show offer incentives to prospective patients including a stay in a five-star hotel, treatment in scenic surroundings, and the chance to go sightseeing while recuperating.
But medical groups warned people risk botched surgery if they go for cheap treatments abroad.
Douglas McGeorge, president of the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery, said British doctors are often left to sort out post-operative complications. The consultant plastic surgeon said: "As a surgeon, I frown on holiday surgery and am amazed that people go for these so-called deals. Complications do occur and are usually left to the British system to pick up."