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If you’re considering going abroad specifically to have NHS-funded medical treatment, you’ll need to discuss your plans with your doctor first.
Your doctor will refer you to your local health commissioner, who will discuss the options available to you. In England and Wales, primary care trusts (PCTs), practice-based commissioners and GPs act as local health commissioners.
In Wales, local health boards and Health Commission Wales are local commissioners. In Scotland, they are your NHS Board. And in Northern Ireland, they are your Health and Social Service Board.
If you’re going to a European Economic Area country or to Switzerland, you can apply for NHS funding in one of two ways. You can either apply by using an S2 form (previously known as an E112) or under Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (previously Article 49 of the European Community Treaty).
There are important differences between the two ways of applying. Your health commissioner will advise you about which is the most suitable for your particular situation. If you’re paying for treatment privately, you won’t need to apply for funding.
The S2 form entitles you to the same state-funded care as a person living in the country you’re visiting. You may need to make a contribution towards the cost. However, this contribution may be reimbursed once you’re back in the UK, if not while you’re abroad. The S2 is only available in cases where there’s a need for specific treatment and is not available on a ‘just in case’ basis. It does not cover private treatment.
To get an S2, you need to apply to your local health commissioner. They will need to be sure that:
If the health commissioner agrees to fund your treatment, they will issue an S2.
The whole process can take a number of weeks, possibly months, to complete. If your local health commissioner refuses to support your application for an S2, you can appeal. If you choose to appeal, you’re strongly advised to seek legal advice first.
Article 56 allows you to apply for a reimbursement of the costs of planned treatment that you have already received in a European country. The treatment must be available through the NHS, and the reimbursement is limited to what that treatment would have cost on the NHS. Unlike the S2, Article 56 claims can be used to reimburse state or private sector treatment. However, you’ll need to pay for the treatment upfront and claim for reimbursement after the treatment is finished. To apply, you’ll need to contact your local health commissioner, who will guide you through the process. There’s no guarantee that the local health commissioner will fund your treatment.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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