A group representing Spain’s private hospitals has warned that some travel companies are misleading customers in a bid to make more money. They claim that extra insurance premiums are being charged for medical care while abroad without clarifying that the client would be entitled to treatment only at state-run hospitals and clinics.

The Alianza de la Sanidad Privada Española (ASPE) represents 1,300 Spanish health institutions and about 80 per cent of the country’s private hospitals. It said last month that if holders of such “fraudulent” travel insurance are treated in a private facility, they will be liable for a large bill. However, British nationals can already benefit from free medical treatment without the extra policy on offer, thanks to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

ASPE says around 800 Britons a day are arriving at private facilities in Spain only to find that their health insurance cover is not valid. They must then pay an average of €4,000 for treatment or be transferred to a public facility.

In a statement, ASPE described thousands of British tourists being “held hostage” to bad practices which put their health at “serious risk.” The group has called on British insurers to detail what is excluded, as well as what is included in the cover on offer in a policy.

ASPE added that, in the case of an uninsured holiday-maker with a serious emergency, the patient would be treated at a private clinic at least until stabilised. However, it adds that it often ends up footing the bill for transfers to a public hospital, and finds it very difficult to recover other costs incurred.