Travel insurance is offered by banks as one of the major perks of their fee-paying accounts, which the banks make easy to sign up for. But claiming on a policy may not always be so easy, especially when large unexpected bills are incurred.

For retired railway engineer Jack Scott from Glasgow, the death of his sister Sandra last month was a bitter landmark in a four-month battle with Bank of Scotland over an Ultimate Reward account.

The £14 a month account includes travel insurance, which is provided by First Assist.

Mr Scott, 65, and his sister were on holiday in Malta last May when Sandra, 70, became unwell and an ambulance was sent for. At the hospital she was quickly diagnosed as suffering from a brain tumour. The UK and Malta have a reciprocal agreement for free NHS treatment, so a special form or health card was not needed.

“Sandra was placed under the care of the neuro general team and was in hospital for 11 days, missing her return flight to the UK,” Mr Scott says.

The consultant released her on a hospital transfer to the UK, and Mr Scott agreed to a charge nurse accompanying them home. “This was however not covered by the (NHS) agreement and the nurse....was to be paid 1500 euros for the work.” He also had to book two new flights home, on top of the extra hotel nights.

“Not long after Sandra was admitted I tried to contact First Assist from Malta, who would not speak to me, they wanted to talk to Sandra. I explained to them that Sandra was in a coma and could not speak to anyone. The First Assist response then was, sorry I cannot help you. I therefore did the return arrangements myself and paid the nurse by international transfer.

“After returning to the UK I again contacted First Assist to be given roughly the same story, we need to talk to Sandra.”

Mr Scott then visited his local Bank of Scotland branch. “The manager spoke to at least four different people in Plymouth, before finally getting someone to take all the details from me and paperwork would be sent for me to complete.

“After about a week there was no response from First Assist so I again visited the bank, who by this time had escalated the problem to Head Office in Glasgow.”

When the insurance company did make contact, it still refused to deal with Mr Scott, claiming data protection issues. “I used to deal with data protection issues in my professional career and told the agent they were talking nonsense.”

The agent said three sets of claim forms had been sent out ,but none arrived. Mr Scott returned an e-mail copy on June 25 complete with itemised bank statements showing all his costs.

More than a fortnight later, the Halifax Ultimate Reward Travel Claims Department replied. It requested invoices, receipts, travel tickets, evidence that the nurse was necessary, medical documents showing dates of treatment, and a medical certificate from Sandra’s GP “as you have not contacted our medical assist team”.

Mr Scott says: “I suggested that most questions related to decisions taken in Malta by the hospital team, and passed on the consultant’s contact email address and the postal address of the hospital

“At the end of July nothing had happened, so I again contacted First Assist, who said the claim was being dealt with. After no movement on 28 August I Emailed First Assist and raised a complaint. They came back with a letter saying it could take another eight working weeks to respond.”

Mr Scott spoke to the customer relations department in early October, to be told his complaint still had to be allocated to a team member. “So 14 weeks after submitting the claim we were still no further forward. I considered this more than enough time to both settle the claim and also investigate the complaint.

“In the meantime sadly Sandra took another seizure on 23 September and passed away on 24 September.”

Bank of Scotland said this week: “We apologise to Mr Scott for the delay in dealing with his case when it is understandably such a difficult time for him. We have been liaising with the treatment facility in order to gather the appropriate invoices as in order to make a claim we need to know what treatment was given to ensure the expenses are covered.

“However, in light of the time taken and personal circumstances for Mr Scott, we are contacting him to arrange for payment to be made as soon as possible.”