Accepted Paper:

Flexibility and friction: conflicts in UK/Spanish health tourism and medical migration  


Susana Carro-Ripalda (University of the Basque Country and Independent Researcher)
Megan Warin (University of Adelaide)

Paper short abstract:

The growing academic and popular terminology surrounding the ways in which British people access and use Spanish health services highlights fundamental tensions that have arisen from flows in transnational migration. These tensions point to a disjuncture between the flows of globalisation and the friction of crossing health care borders.

Paper long abstract:

Recent European Union normatives to open up cross border health care have sparked a political debate in the media which highlight the tensions between the transnational flow of people and their use of health care services in multiple EU states. This paper specifically examines the use of local public health services in Spain by UK 'health tourists' and migrants, and the conflict that has arisen between those using and providing health services. We examine how these tensions are strategically played out in both the Spanish and UK media, arguing that discourses of 'health tourism' (and 'retirement migration') speak directly to ideological conflicts at the heart of health mobility. UK migrants who have lost entitlements to access the NHS because of their changed status are represented as 'outside users' who burden the Spanish health system. Alternatively, those who seek specific and short term health services in Spain are encouraged to do so by the UK government under the EU policy on access to health care across EU states. These competing discourses of health care use, provision, and entitlement can be seen as metaphorically referring to wider issues concerning the permeability (or impermeability) of state borders, the endurance of national identities, and resulting difficulties in the construction of a European identity and citizenship.)

Panel W051
Migrants' pathways to health care: access barriers and patterns of resilience and mutuality