Accessing healthcare abroad

Going to live abroad is a major decision and you should research in advance a wide range of information and advice to help you plan and make sure the move goes smoothly. If you’re moving abroad permanently, you’ll no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.

Find out about the healthcare system, including costs, and get a full health plan where you plan to move to. Many countries do not provide government-funded healthcare and your eligibility for treatment under the NHS may change. 

Healthcare systems vary from country to country and might not include services you’d expect to get free of charge on the NHS. You may have to pay a patient contribution towards any treatment you get, or it may be necessary to take out health insurance.

Before leaving for your new destination, it’s essential to check what health services are available to you in that country.

Planning your healthcare abroad

In most countries, you’ll have to register with the relevant authorities. Once you’re registered as a resident to work and make social security (national insurance) contributions, you’ll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a resident of that country.

Even if you’re not working, many countries expect you to make patient contributions or join a national health insurance scheme.

Pack enough supplies of any medication that you are taking in your hand luggage. You should keep your medication in its original packaging and take any prescription documents with you. In some countries, medicine that you were given over the counter elsewhere may be illegal. Check with the nearest embassy of the country you are going to (which may be based in London or another European city) that your medication will be legal in that country and find out whether you will need to take a doctor’s letter with you. Upon arrive find your nearest haemophilia centre in case of any emergencies.

If you are going to live abroad, find out whether the UK has a social security agreement with the country where you plan to live and what services are covered. For more information, check the Department for Work and Pensions’ website. Unless your employer provides a healthcare plan, you should consider private healthcare plans to cover treatment in the country where you live.

Moving to Europe

There are circumstances in which you might be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK. This will depend on whether you want to live abroad permanently or only work outside the UK for a set period.

The assistance available only applies within the European Union (EU) and in Switzerland and can also depend on whether you receive a UK State Pension or some other UK benefits.

You can use a UK-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to access healthcare for temporary stays, usually up to 90 days.

Access to healthcare

Depending on which country you live in, you may have suitable alternative access to local healthcare, but this may not be at the same level as the services provided by the NHS, and they could come at a cost.

Living in country guides

Advice for UK nationals living abroad, including residency, health and benefits, and specific advice for people following the UK’s departure from the EU can be found at Living in country guide

Reciprocal Health Agreement

The UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with some non-EU countries. Within these countries, you’ll often be treated as if you were a resident of the country you’re visiting – UK reciprocal healthcare agreements with non-EU countries

Isle of Man – Residents visiting the UK will continue to receive free healthcare, should the need arise, and vice versa, for UK residents visiting the Isle of Man, apart from statutory charges which Isle of Man residents have to pay, such as prescription charges.

Jersey – Jersey and the UK have a Reciprocal Health Agreement which means that if you qualify for free healthcare in Jersey and require emergency treatment when visiting the UK, or vice versa, you won’t have to pay certain healthcare charges. The reciprocal health agreements only cover you if your visit was intended to last for less than three months and you don’t intend to move countries permanently.

The agreement doesn’t cover all costs, e.g. certain types of follow on treatment or travel costs.  Patient travel and related charges policy

Guernsey does not currently have a reciprocal health agreement with the UK or Europe, as it is independent of both the NHS and those holding European Health Insurance Cards (E.H.I.C.).  Currently, there is no reciprocal health agreement with the UK. If you require medical or hospital treatment while you are in the UK (England, Scotland and Wales), and do not have private medical insurance, you will be responsible for paying the full cost for the care you have received from the NHS Trust that has provided this treatment.

What is International Health Insurance?

International health insurance works much like health insurance at home. With it, you are covered for emergency treatment, diagnosis and post-treatment care. Having an international health insurance plan in place can help you avoid healthcare expenses as many common illnesses are covered.

International health insurance benefits vary by plan, but often include:

  • Hospital stay
  • Routine check-ups
  • Multi-country health cover for you and your family
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions e.g. bleeding disorders
  • Cover for chronic conditions
  • Choice of medical providers

Contact Overseas Healthcare Services 

If you have any questions about Overseas Healthcare Services, including the Immigration Health Surcharge reimbursement, you can phone the numbers below:

Telephone: 0191 218 1999
Telephone from outside UK: +44 191 218 1999
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. 

Returning to the UK for treatment

Further information about accessing NHS services can be found on the visiting or moving to England pages.

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