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NHS charges for people from abroad

This advice applies to Scotland

Most non-EEA nationals who come to the UK for more than 6 months have to pay an immigration health surcharge. This is part of the process of applying for a visa. Find out more about health surcharging on NHS Inform.

Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. You might be charged for some NHS services, for example, dental treatment, prescriptions and glasses.

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.

If you're coming to the UK for more than 6 months you'll probably have to pay an immigration health surcharge. This is part of the process of applying for a visa. Once you've paid the surcharge your NHS treatment is free.

You won't need to pay the surcharge if you're from the EEA or a family member of someone from the EEA. Your NHS treatment should be free if you usually live in the UK.

Find out more about health surcharging on NHS Inform. You can also check which countries are in the EEA on GOV.UK.

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

Find out where to start if you’re making a complaint about the NHS.

NHS hospital treatment

To find out if you can get free hospital treatment, see health services for overseas visitors on the Scottish Government website.

The NHS inform website has information about health care for:

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.

Refusal of treatment

If you are not entitled to receive free NHS hospital treatment you will not be refused medical treatment that stabilises a life-threatening condition, for example, for renal failure. Treatment will be given to deal with the emergency, but you will be expected to return home for it to be completed, once the emergency is over.

If there is not an emergency, but treatment has to start immediately, you may be asked to give an undertaking to pay. In these circumstances, it is very important that you find out the likely cost.

If it is not urgent, you will be given the opportunity to refuse the treatment if you cannot afford it. Treatment can be delayed until you can raise the money. If you cannot do so, treatment will be refused.

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

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 are visiting the UK for less than 3 months, they may accept you as a temporary resident. However there are certain services you may 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're from the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein

The rights of EU, EEA and Swiss visitors to healthcare in the UK will change after Brexit. Find out more about treatment for overseas visitors on NHS Inform.

If you have difficulty finding a GP or a dentist who is prepared to register you, contact NHS 24 on 111. 

Charges

Even if you are accepted onto a dentist's list of NHS patients, you have to pay charges for 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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