How to access NHS services in England if you are visiting from abroad

This information is for people who are visiting England from abroad. The way the NHS charges overseas visitors for healthcare has changed. If you are a migrant, visitor and former residents of the UK, you must pay for your care when in England. 

If you are a visitor to the UK from an EU country and falls ill or have a medical emergency during a temporary stay in England, you can use a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by your home country to access healthcare.  

The EHIC (or a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC)) will cover treatment that becomes medically necessary during a visit. It also covers the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, providing the reason for visiting is not specifically to give birth or receive treatment. 

An EHIC or PRC is not an alternative to travel insurance and we always advise that visitors should have both when travelling to the UK. It does not cover any private medical healthcare, being flown back home, or lost or stolen property. If you do not provide relevant documentation, charges will be calculated at 150% of the national NHS rate. 

If you visit England for more than 6 months, you will need to pay the immigration health surcharge, unless you’re exempt from paying it. The full amount will be paid upfront for the duration of your visa. 

Who needs to pay?

You usually need to pay the healthcare surcharge if you’re applying for a visa or immigration application: 

  • for more than 6 months, if you’re applying outside the UK 
  • for any length of time, if you’re applying inside the UK 

You do not need to pay if you’re applying for a visitor visa or to remain in the UK permanently. 

Pay for UK healthcare as part of your immigration application 

You might need to pay a healthcare surcharge (called the ‘immigration health surcharge’ or IHS) as part of your immigration application. 

Whether you need to pay depends on the immigration status you’re applying for. 

Immigration status checks by the NHS: guidance for overseas patients 

NHS-funded hospital treatment is only free of charge to people who are ordinarily resident in the UK or exempt from charges in law. Your immigration status is relevant to establishing if you are ordinarily resident in the UK or if some of the exemption from charge categories apply to you. When the NHS does not have accurate information about your immigration status, it needs to seek this information from the Home Office. 

The UK government always advises visitors to the UK to take out travel or health insurance with the necessary healthcare coverage for your needs. This is particularly important for pre-existing health conditions. Appropriate insurance means visitors may be able to recoup any treatment costs from their insurer. 

Disclaimer:   The content of this page has been provided by NHS.UK and GOV.UK and is for general information only. It is subject to change without notice.