Getting healthcare abroad

UK residents who hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are entitled to free or reduced-cost emergency treatment when visiting the European Union (EU) – and certain other European countries.

You will be treated in the same way as a resident of the country you are visiting, including treatment for chronic or pre-existing conditions.

Some countries outside the EU also have mutual healthcare agreements with the UK. For example:

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Russia
  • Jersey.

To claim free or reduced-cost treatment in countries like these, you‘ll need to prove you are a UK resident. This usually involves showing a UK passport.

In countries that aren’t covered by the EHIC, and where there is no mutual agreement with the UK, you’ll have to pay the full cost of healthcare. Taking out comprehensive travel insurance is important. You may need to pay for treatment while you’re abroad and then claim this money back. Your insurance provider can guide you through this process.

Remember, The EHIC won’t pay to transport you back home in an emergency (repatriation). This may be covered by your travel insurance.

Travelling in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles UK residents to free or reduced-cost emergency treatment when temporarily visiting the European Union (EU) and certain other European countries. The EHIC has replaced the E111 form, which can no longer be used.

The EHIC:
  • allows you to be treated in the same way as a resident of the country you’re visiting. This may not be the same as the care you'd expect to get from the NHS or Health Service
  • can be used if you need to have ongoing treatment while you’re abroad, such as regular injections
  • covers treatments that are needed during your trip for chronic or pre-existing conditions.

The EHIC should allow you to receive emergency medical treatment and, in some cases, the types of ongoing treatment mentioned above. The EHIC can’t be used instead of travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical costs, travelling to a country for health treatment, medical evacuation or help getting back to the UK. You should also buy travel insurance.

Some countries expect you to pay your bill when you’re treated and then claim a refund with your EHIC. You should try to apply for a refund before you return to the UK. Each person travelling needs to carry an EHIC, including children. To get cards for children, you should list them as dependents when you apply for your own card. Each country’s healthcare system is different, so your EHIC may not cover everything that would be free on the NHS or Health Service.

Applying for an EHIC

The EHIC is free and renewals are also free. You should avoid any websites that charge to apply for or renew an EHIC for you.

You can apply for the EHIC if you are legally living in, and settled in, the UK. If you usually live in the UK, but are not a national of the UK, another EEA country or Switzerland, you will need to apply by post. You will need to include proof that you are ordinarily resident in the UK.

You can apply for an EHIC:

  • online at nhs.uk/ehic
  • by post, using an application form you’ve downloaded from the website
  • by phoning 0845 606 2030.

For each person who needs a card, you will need to give their:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • national insurance or NHS number (England and Wales), CHI number (Scotland) or Health and Care Number (Northern Ireland).

Your card will normally arrive within seven days. When it arrives, store it somewhere safe and secure. Keep it with your passport while you’re travelling.

The EHIC is valid in the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Your EHIC is only valid for five years before it needs to be renewed. It’s a good idea to make sure yours hasn’t expired before you travel.

More information about the EHIC and health advice for travellers can be found on the NHS Choices website or on the NI Direct website if you live in Northern Ireland.


Countries with mutual healthcare agreements with the UK

Some countries outside the EU have mutual healthcare agreements with the UK. These countries will provide free or reduced-cost emergency medical treatment to people from the UK. You’ll be treated in the same way as a resident of that country. This may differ from what you’d expect from the NHS or Health Service. Because the agreements do not cover every situation, you will still need to get travel insurance. For more information visit nhs.uk/healthcareabroad.

The following countries have mutual healthcare agreements with the UK:

  • Anguilla
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Georgia
  • Gibraltar
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey (not Guernsey)
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montserrat
  • New Zealand
  • Russia
  • St Helena
  • Serbia and Montenegro
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan

To claim free or reduced-cost treatment in these countries you‘ll need to prove you are a UK resident. Usually this involves showing a UK passport.


Countries with no healthcare agreements with the UK

In countries that aren’t covered by the EHIC and where there is no mutual agreement with the UK (including Guernsey, the USA, South America, Africa, most of Asia and Turkey), you’ll have to pay the full cost of any healthcare. Taking out comprehensive travel insurance is particularly important if you’re travelling to these countries.

The high commission, consulate or embassy of the country you’re visiting should be able to give you information on the healthcare services available. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website has details of where you can find these and British embassies when you’re abroad.


Getting a refund on your treatment

You may need to pay for treatment while you’re abroad and then claim this money back. The process for getting a refund will vary depending on your situation. You’re likely to need the original invoices and documents from your treatment to make a claim.

If you’re covered by travel insurance, your insurance provider will guide you through this process. If you have planned treatment abroad in advance, you may need to seek reimbursement from your local health commissioner when you return to the UK.

If you have an EHIC and are travelling in a country where it’s valid, you should try to claim any refunds before you return home. There’s information about how to do this in different countries at nhs.uk/healthcareabroad. This website also has information about reclaiming costs in all countries that have mutual health agreements with the UK. To make a claim on your EHIC once you return to the UK, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on 019 1218 1999.


Repatriation

Repatriation means being transported home in an emergency. This may be covered by your travel insurance but the EHIC will not pay for it.

Back to Travelling abroad

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