Healthcare abroad

If you become ill abroad and need urgent help, contact the local emergency services. If you have time, try to seek help from a doctor or nurse who speaks the same language as you. 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be able to help.

UK residents can get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC entitles you to free or less expensive emergency treatment in some European countries. This includes countries in the European Union (EU) and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

Some countries outside the EU have mutual healthcare agreements with the UK. For an up-to-date list of these countries, visit nhs.uk/healthcareabroad

In other countries, you will need to pay the full cost of healthcare. Buying travel insurance that covers any healthcare you might need is important when visiting these countries. 

Sometimes you may need to pay for treatment while you are abroad and then claim this money back.

You may want to check whether your travel insurance would pay for you to return home in an emergency (repatriation). This is not covered by the EHIC.

If you become ill

If you become ill while staying in a hotel, ask the receptionist to call a doctor. If you need urgent attention, contact the emergency services or visit the emergency department of the nearest hospital. If you have time, try to get help and advice from a doctor or nurse who speaks the same language as you – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be able to help you with this.

Contacting relatives

Keep the names and addresses of family and friends with your passport, so that British Consular officials can contact them if you need their help. It is important to keep these details up-to-date each time you travel.

If you need to return to the UK quickly, you should also contact British Consular officials. They can usually arrange this for you, but you may need to pay a fee.

Travel insurance

Medical treatment abroad could be very expensive. Travel insurance can cover these costs. Take your insurance policy document and helpline number with you when you travel.


Emergency healthcare in European countries

What is an EHIC?

All UK residents can get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). An EHIC entitles you to free or less expensive emergency treatment in some European countries. This includes countries in the European Union (EU) and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Although the UK public voted in favour of leaving the EU in 2016, this has not affected the EHIC at the time of writing. You can still apply for the card and use it. 

The EHIC has the following benefits:

  • It allows you to be treated in the same way as a resident of the country you are visiting. This may not be the same as the care you would expect to get from the NHS (England, Scotland and Wales) or the Health Service (Northern Ireland).
  • It can be used if you need ongoing treatment while you are abroad, such as regular injections. Remember the same medicines may not be available in all countries. 
  • It covers treatments that are needed during your trip for chronic or pre-existing conditions.

The EHIC should allow you to have emergency medical treatment and sometimes some types of ongoing treatment. The EHIC cannot be used instead of travel insurance. It will not cover:

  • any private medical costs
  • travelling to a country for health treatment
  • medical evacuation (where you need to be taken to hospital by special transport, usually a helicopter)
  • help getting back to the UK. 

You should also buy travel insurance.

Some countries expect you to pay your bill when you are treated and then claim a refund 

with your EHIC. You should try to apply for a refund before you return to the UK. 

Who can get an EHIC?

You can apply for an EHIC if you are legally living in, and settled in, the UK. This is called being ordinarily resident. If you usually live in the UK, but are not a national of the UK or another country covered by the card, you will need to apply by post. You will need to include proof that you are ordinarily resident in the UK. More information about the EHIC is available on the NHS website

Applying for an EHIC

An EHIC is free and renewals are also free. 

You can apply for an EHIC:

Only apply for an EHIC in these ways. Avoid websites that charge you to apply for an EHIC or renew one.

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. 

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 are travelling.


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 will be treated in the same way as a resident of that country. This may be different from what you would expect from the NHS or Health Service. Because the agreements do not cover every situation, you will still need to get travel insurance. 

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

For an up-to-date list of countries that have a mutual agreement with the UK, visit nhs.uk/healthcareabroad

When I was in Australia, a clinic had to take my blood and send it to the hospital. The cost wasn’t too high and the doctors said I could claim it back.

Alan


Countries with no healthcare agreements with the UK

In countries that are not covered by the EHIC and where there is no mutual agreement with the UK, you will have to pay the full cost of any healthcare. If you are travelling to these countries, it is important to buy travel insurance that covers any healthcare you might need.

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


Getting a refund on your treatment

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

If you are covered by travel insurance, your insurance provider will explain this process to you.

If you have an EHIC and are travelling in a country where it is valid, you should try to claim any refunds before you return home. There is 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.


Returning home due to an illness or an emergency (repatriation)

The EHIC and some travel insurance policies will not pay to transport you back home in an emergency (repatriation). When getting travel insurance, you should check whether repatriation is included.

Some people affected by cancer have told us about a company called Swiss Assist. It offers a service where it will fly you home in an ambulance jet, if required, for a 14-day, monthly or annual membership fee. They cover Europe and some other countries.

Back to Travelling abroad

Vaccinations and immunisations

Cancer treatment can affect the vaccinations you’re able to have, or when you can have them. This may affect your choice of holiday location.

Taking medicines abroad

If you’re taking medicines abroad, always check for rules and restrictions in your destination country.