A NORTH-EAST MEP is to press the Spanish government to clarify the position of British holidaymakers who fall ill and receive private medical treatment.

The Northern Echo has reported his week on uninsured tourists Bernard Boyle and Harry Stubbs becoming ill in Spain and being taken to private hospitals.

Because they are not in a state hospital, they cannot claim back their costs - which can run into thousands of pounds - using the E111 form.

This form allows holiday-makers visiting European Union countries to receive free basic emergency healthcare in state hospitals, as a result of a reciprocal agreement.

Conservative MEP Martin Callanan is writing to the Spanish Minister for Health to highlight his concerns.

He said: "The problem is that, unlike in this country, where the majority of health care is state-funded, a lot of EU countries have a much larger proportion of private hospitals.

"I am going to ask for clarification as to how much responsibility an ambulance driver, for instance, should take to make sure you go to a state hospital.

"As far as I am concerned, it seems totally unfair that someone who has the E111 as a fall-back finds themselves in this difficult position, if they are unfortunate enough to be taken ill."

In Spain, refunds of private medical costs can be considered in a "clear life-or-death situation, where state hospital facilities are not available".

But the Department of Health admits that only about ten Britons have ever had money refunded in this way.

A spokesman said: "If you require urgent treatment, it will only be provided free of charge in a public ward at a public hospital.

"Make sure you are to be admitted as a health service patient and show your E111 immediately on arrival, handing over a photocopy.

"If you fail to do this, you will be charged as a private patient and you are unlikely to get your money back.