Going abroad for treatment

If you are thinking about going abroad to have medical treatment funded by the NHS or the Health and Social Care Board, you need to discuss your plans with your doctor first. Your doctor will refer you to your local health commissioner, who will advise you about the options available to you:

If you are going to a European Economic Area (EEA) country or to Switzerland, there are two ways to apply for NHS funding. You can either apply using an S2 form or under Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, also known as the EU Directive.

Treatment funded by the NHS or Health and Social Care Board

If you are thinking about going abroad to have medical treatment funded by the NHS or Health and Social Care Board, you need to discuss your plans with your doctor first.

Your doctor will refer you to your local health commissioner, who will advise you about the options available to you:

If you are going to a European Economic Area (EEA) country or to Switzerland, there are two ways to apply for NHS funding. You can either apply using an S2 form or under Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, also known as the EU Directive. There are important differences between these two ways of applying. Your health commissioner will advise you about which is the most suitable for you. If you are paying for treatment privately, you will not 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 are visiting. In some countries, you may need to contribute towards the cost. But you may get this money back once you have returned to the UK. The S2 is only available if you need a specific treatment, and it must be approved before you travel. It does not cover private treatment, travel or accommodation. 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 that you have treatment abroad
  • the treatment would normally be provided on the NHS to a person in your situation
  • the treatment is available under the other country’s state health scheme
  • the approving health board has agreed that the treatment cannot be given to you on the NHS within a reasonable period of time
  • you are entitled to NHS or Health Service care
  • the treatment is not part of a drug trial or experiment
  • the treatment is not emergency treatment.

If the health commissioner agrees to fund your treatment, they will give you an S2. It can take a few weeks, sometimes months, for this to happen. 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.


The EU Directive (Article 56)

The EU Directive (also known as Article 56) allows you to apply for money back for the cost of planned treatment that you have already had in a European country. It does not cover Switzerland. The treatment must be available through the NHS or Health and Social Care Board. The amount you will get 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. But 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 is no guarantee that the local health commissioner will fund your treatment.

You can find more information about going abroad for treatment on the NHS Choices website.

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Standards of care

There are national guidelines and standards for cancer treatment and care.