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NHS charges for people from abroad

This advice applies to England

Some NHS treatment is free and available to anyone who needs it. This includes:

  • treatment in a hospital Accident and Emergency department
  • seeing a GP - as an NHS or temporary patient
  • family planning services
  • treatment for some infectious diseases
  • compulsory psychiatric treatment

Whether you can get other free NHS services depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. Check if you're entitled to free NHS healthcare on GOV.UK.

You will still have access to free NHS healthcare even if you have no recourse to public funds

Even if you’re entitled to free NHS healthcare, you might be charged for some NHS services, like dental treatment, prescriptions and glasses. You might not have to pay for these services if you can get certain benefits like Income Support. 

You might be able to get help to pay - check if you can get help with health costs

Any free NHS treatment you receive, or any help with NHS costs, won’t affect your immigration status. 

Getting healthcare if you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland

You might be able to get other NHS treatment for free, depending on your immigration status. This includes getting ‘secondary healthcare’ from a hospital for something that isn’t an emergency - for example, an operation to replace your hip or visits from a midwife.

If you're an Irish citizen you can get free NHS healthcare when you start living in the UK.

The EEA includes EU countries and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Check if you can get free secondary healthcare

You need to be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK. This means you’re living in the UK legally and you’re not a visitor - you might be asked to prove this.

You’ll also need to have one of the following:

  • British citizenship - for example, if you have dual nationality
  • indefinite leave to remain
  • ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled status’ from the EU Settlement Scheme
  • applied for settled or pre-settled status before 30 June 2021 and are waiting for a decision - you’ll need to show your application certificate
  • limited leave to remain - for example, you arrived in the UK after 31 December 2020 on a work visa
  • been trafficked - your family can also get free secondary healthcare

If you're not ordinarily resident in the UK, you might be charged for NHS services.

Check if your health charges are covered by an EU or EEA country or Switzerland

You might be entitled to have your NHS healthcare paid for by another country - for example, if you live in the UK but get a state pension from the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
You’ll need to have either an:

  • S1 certificate - for example, if you’re a 'frontier worker'
  • S2 certificate - for example, if you have an S2 visa

You can find out more about when your health costs in the UK are covered by an EU or EEA country or Switzerland on GOV.UK.

Check if your family can get free NHS healthcare

To get free NHS healthcare your family member will need to have:

  • pre-settled or settled status
  • a family permit - they'll need to apply for pre-settled or settled status within 3 months of arriving in the UK
  • applied for pre-settled or settled status by 30 June 2021 and be waiting for a decision - they’ll need to show their application certificate

If you’re visiting the UK from an EU country

You can use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in that country. Your EHIC will cover the costs of treatment if you get ill on the visit. You can also use an EHIC from an EU country if you’re a student and either:

  • your course started before 1 January 2021
  • you’re studying in the UK for less than 6 months

If you’re visiting the UK from Norway you can use your Norwegian passport to get medically necessary healthcare for free - for example an accident or illness that can’t wait until you get home.

Using your EHIC in the EU, EEA or Switzerland

If you're from the EU, EEA or Switzerland and were living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you can apply for a new EHIC from the UK. 

You can use your card to cover the costs of treatment if you get ill while visiting the EEA.

Accessing treatment

If you're entitled to free treatment, you can get it immediately. You don’t need to have been here for a certain amount of time.

If you don’t meet the conditions for free treatment, you must be given clear information about charges in a way you understand. This could include providing information in your own language or through an interpreter. 

If you don’t get clear information, it could be discrimination. Find out how to complain about discrimination

For more information about making a complaint about the NHS, see Dealing with NHS problems - where to start.  

NHS hospital treatment

You can find out about accessing NHS services if you're visiting from abroad on the NHS Choices website. 

Paying for hospital treatment

If you have to pay, you'll usually have to pay before you have the treatment.

You won't have to pay before if you need urgent treatment but you might still have to pay after.

If your treatment is urgent

If you’re not entitled to free NHS hospital treatment, you'll still get medical treatment that stabilises a life-threatening condition, like renal failure. You’ll get treatment to deal with the emergency, but you’ll have to return home to complete the treatment once the emergency is over.

If your treatment is not urgent 

If it’s not an emergency, but treatment has to start immediately, you might be asked to sign an undertaking to pay. 

In these circumstances, it’s very important to find out the likely cost. If the treatment is not urgent, you can refuse it if you can’t afford it. You can delay your treatment until you can raise the money. If you can’t raise the money, you’ll be refused treatment. 

If you're entitled to free hospital treatment, but have been told you’ll be charged, you should contact the NHS organisation that’s charging you and explain why you’re entitled to free treatment.

Contact the Health Authority

If you're entitled to free hospital treatment, but have been told that you'll be charged, you should contact the Health Authority

GPs and dentists

It’s up to the GP or dentist whether they accept you onto their list of NHS patients.

There are some exceptions to these rules though, for example if you need emergency treatment.

A patient doesn’t need to be “ordinarily resident” in the country to be eligible for NHS primary medical care – this only applies to secondary (hospital) care.

A GP practice may be flexible in deciding whether to accept you as a registered patient and if you're visiting the UK for less than 3 months, they might accept you as a temporary resident. However, there are certain services you might have to pay a fee for. Your residency status is not a determining factor in whether or not to accept you as a registered patient. 

If you have difficulty finding a GP or a dentist who is prepared to register you, contact NHS England. You can also get help to find a doctor from the NHS 111 service.

Charges

Even if you are accepted onto a GP or dentist's list of NHS patients, you have to pay charges for some things like prescription charges and dental treatment.

For more information about charges and the help you might get to pay for them, see Help with health costs.

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