Access to Healthcare in the UK

Free National Health Service (NHS) hospital treatment is provided within England based on someone being ‘ordinarily resident’. Being ordinarily resident is not dependent upon nationality, payment of UK taxes, National Insurance contributions, being registered with a GP, having an NHS number or owning property in the UK. You cannot be considered ordinarily resident in the UK unless you have indefinite leave to remain or status under the EU Settlement Scheme. 

Those who are not ordinarily resident in the UK, including former UK residents, are overseas visitors and may be charged for NHS services. 

Treatment in A&E departments and at GP surgeries remains free for all. 

If you are attending a hospital appointment and it transpires that you are not entitled to free treatment, you will have to pay for the care you receive and pay a deposit before your appointment.

You may be asked to prove that you qualify – and determining residency is not always simply a matter of paying UK taxes and National Insurance, being registered with a GP or owning property in the UK.

Please note that urgent services will be provided to any patient – even if you have not paid a deposit. This covers life-saving treatment or actions that stop a condition from becoming immediately life-threatening.

Accessing the NHS after moving to the UK from Europe

If you’re moving to the UK from a European Union country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland in 2024, you can likely access the National Health Service (NHS). The process depends on whether you’re considered a visitor or an ordinary resident.

As a Visitor:

  • You’ll generally need an S1 form issued by your home country’s social security authority. This proves your healthcare coverage in Europe.
  • With an S1 form, you can access NHS care at no charge.
  • Hospitals may require a referral from a GP (General Practitioner) in England before treatment.
  • The healthcare provider might ask for your S1 form or contact Overseas Healthcare Services to verify it.

As an Ordinary Resident:

  • If you’re permanently settled in the UK, you’ll be considered “ordinarily resident” and entitled to NHS services without charge.
  • This usually applies if you’re working or studying in the UK for a set period.

Here are some resources to learn more:

Remember, this is just a general overview. It’s always best to check with the NHS directly for the latest information and any specific requirements that might apply to your situation.

Accessing the NHS When Moving to the UK from Outside Europe

The NHS operates on a residency basis, so whether you can access it for free depends on your immigration status. Here’s a breakdown for those moving from outside Europe:

Ordinarily Resident:

  • This is the key term. To be considered “ordinarily resident” means living in the UK lawfully and with the intention to stay for the foreseeable future. Your nationality, tax contributions, or property ownership are irrelevant.
  • Proof of residency may include your visa, immigration status documents, and evidence of establishing yourself in the UK (e.g., rental agreements, utility bills).

Eligibility for Free NHS Services:

  • If you meet the “ordinarily resident” criteria, you’ll be entitled to most NHS services free of charge.
  • This includes registering with a General Practitioner (GP), the first point of contact for NHS care.

Visas and the Immigration Health Surcharge:

  • Having a valid visa exceeding 6 months and paying the Immigration Health Surcharge is a strong indicator of residency and grants access to the NHS.
  • Exceptions exist for certain visas or if the surcharge was exempt before 6 April 2015.

Further Resources:

Important Note:

  • This information applies to England. The healthcare systems in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have some variations. It’s best to check their respective government websites for details.

Accessing healthcare in ScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland is different from in England.  

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