Going abroad for treatment

Treatment funded by the NHS or Health and Social Care Board

If you’re thinking about going abroad to have medical treatment funded by the NHS or Health and Social Care Board, 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, this will be your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) or NHS England. 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 or under Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. There are important differences between the two ways of applying. Your health commissioner will advise you about which is the most suitable for you. If you’re paying for treatment privately, you won’t need to apply for funding.

S2 Form

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 contribute towards the cost. However, you may get this money back once you’ve returned to the UK, if not while you’re abroad. The S2 is only available in cases where there’s a need for specific treatment. You can’t get one just in case you might need it. The S2 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:

  • an NHS or Health Service consultant has recommended you are treated abroad
  • the treatment is available under the other country’s state health scheme
  • the costs of sending you abroad are justified
  • you are entitled to NHS or Health Service care.

If the health commissioner agrees to fund your treatment, they will give you an S2. It can take a few weeks, sometimes months, until this happens. If your local health commissioner refuses to support your application for an S2, you can appeal. If you choose to appeal, you should seek legal advice first.

Article 56

Article 56 allows you to apply for money back for the cost of planned treatment that you’ve already had in a European country. The treatment must be available through the NHS or Health and Social Care Board. The amount you will receive back will only be up to as much as the treatment would have cost on the NHS or Health Service.

Unlike the S2, Article 56 claims can be used to get money back for state or private sector treatment. However, you need to pay for the treatment first and claim the cost back after the treatment is finished. Your local health commissioner will need to help you apply. There’s no guarantee that the local health commissioner will fund your treatment.

Back to Travelling abroad

Getting healthcare abroad

The treatment you’re entitled to abroad will depend on whether the country has a healthcare agreement with the UK.

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.