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Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in Belgium

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you would expect to get free of charge from the NHS. This means you may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care.

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Belgium at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free when on a temporary stay. The Belgian health authority determines what treatment is considered necessary and cannot wait until your return to the UK.

The EHIC also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions, although it does not cover you if you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment. In this case, see our section about Seeking medical treatment in Europe.

The EHIC also covers you for routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.

If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate.

Get the EHIC Smartphone App

The European Commission has developed a useful multi-language free phone app which explains how to use the EHIC card in different countries within the EU. It summarises the treatments, costs, procedure for reimbursement and emergency numbers.

Non-EEA nationals are not covered by the EHIC in Belgium.

Find help in emergencies

In the event of an emergency in Belgium you can call 100 or 112 (or 114 hearing assisted). This call is free of charge from any fixed or mobile phone. An ambulance will arrive quickly and take you to the nearest emergency centre (you will need to pay for this service).

Most emergency services and doctors speak English, but there is no guarantee. If possible, have a local person assist you with your call. In addition, take a note of these useful Belgian phrases for emergencies.

The two main languages spoken in Belgium are French and Dutch. The word for "emergency" is "urgence" in French and "spoedgeval" in Dutch.

When you reach the emergency services ask for the medical service which in French/Dutch is "Service médical d’urgence"/"Medische spoeddienst".

Other useful telephone numbers to note down are:

  • 101 – national police (police fédérale / federale politie)
  • 100 – national fire service (pompiers / medische spoeddienst)
  • 105 - the Red Cross
  • 02 648 40 14 – Community Help Service Helpline (24 hour crisis and information service in English)
Tip

Here is a useful glossary of French and Dutch medical words.

Health services and costs

Most doctors and dentists in Belgium offer private healthcare, but there are a few who offer both state and private healthcare.

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment, so make sure you are treated by a state healthcare provider. You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable.

Even with a state healthcare provider, to receive treatment from a doctor or dentist you'll have to pay a fee directly to them. It's then possible to claim back up to 75% of the costs while you're in Belgium. To claim money back you need a receipt on the official form (attestation de soins donnés/Getuigschrift voor verstrekte hulp) so you should always ask the doctor or dentist for this.

Some dentists accept part-payment if you show your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Check before registering with a dentist as treatment charges differ considerably.

Anyone living in Belgium must visit the dentist at least once a year to qualify for health insurance reimbursement.

Tip

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.

Hospital treatment

Hospital care in Belgium is not free. Most inpatient care carries a fixed daily fee (generally around 15 euros) plus the cost of medicines.

If you are admitted to hospital, make sure you present your EHIC or your SIS card along with your Belgian Residence Identity card on admission. It's advisable to take your British Passport with you too. This will save you from paying any refundable costs up front and ensure you only pay the patient contribution.

A comprehensive list of hospitals in Belgium is provided by the Belgian Hospital Association (Association Belge des Hôpitaux in French and Dutch). Head Office: Dejonckerstreet 46, B 1060 Brussels, Belgium. Email: belgian.hospitals@gmail.com Tel: +32 2 4777 39 26

Prescriptions

You will have to pay for your prescription at the pharmacy but up to 75% of the cost can be reimbursed while you're in Belgium. Make sure the prescription is stamped and the pharmacist issues you with a receipt so you can claim your reimbursement.

Most pharmacies in Belgium operate on regular working hours, with a number operating 24 hours a day.

Tip

You can call 0900 10 500 for information about duty pharmacies. It’s a 24 hr phone service to help you find pharmacies in your area. You can also use their online service and search for pharmacies via post code.

Ambulance

In most cases, ambulance travel in Belgium is charged. State health provision does not generally provide any reimbursement for use of an ambulance. There is a standard charge for using an ambulance (the so-called '100'). Additionally, a charge per km is added covering the distance of travel to the hospital.

You will be sent an invoice with the amount to be paid by post that you must pay in full.

Making healthcare arrangements in advance

Certain treatments must be pre-arranged before arriving in Belgium. You should consult your GP before travelling. Remember, you must present your EHIC for all treatments abroad.

Oxygen therapy

Ensure your EHIC is valid before you travel. In most cases you will have to use the authorised oxygen company for the country you are travelling to. You’ll also have to make your own arrangements, including arranging for permission from your hotel to deliver and install the equipment. There may also be additional costs that the EHIC will not cover.

In Belgium there are three different types of oxygen: gassiform, oxygenconcentrator and fluid oxygen.

The easiest way to access oxygen during a visit to Belgium is to use gassiform oxygen. You can obtain this at any Belgian pharmacist. Reimbursements can be obtained at any Belgian Social Security Fund but you must have a valid EHIC. Addresses and phone numbers of pharmacists can be found on the Apotheek.be website (available in French or Dutch).

Oxygenconcentrator or fluid oxygen can be obtained through a hospital, though some smaller hospitals do not provide it. You should contact one of the bigger hospitals in Belgium before travelling. Visit hospitals.be for more information (available in Dutch only).

If you contact one of the Belgian Sickness Insurance Funds this will simplify the processing of any request you make for reimbursement. Visit inami.be for more information (available in French or Dutch).

1. Gassiform oxygen

Advantages:

  • can be obtained at any pharmacist
  • pure oxygen

Disadvantages:

  • heavy bottle
  • low capacity
  • only partially taken in charge according to Belgian legislation

2. Oxygenconcentrator

Advantages: 

  • comfortable
  • daily reimbursement of about €8.50 (contact Belgian Sickness Insurance Fund beforehand)
  • safe
  • easy to use

Disadvantages:

  • could be interrupted, therefore an alternative method must also be present
  • high personal charge
  • delivered only under strict conditions

3. Fluid oxygen

Advantages:

  • lightweight
  • high capacity
  • pure oxygen
  • no charge for the patient (contact Belgian Sickness Insurance Fund beforehand)

Disadvantages:

  • spontaneous evaporation
  • risk of freezing injuries
  • irritation of the nose due to low temperature
  • delivered only under strict conditions 

Other arrangements

Your home oxygen supplier is not required to provide a service outside the UK, however, most suppliers will be able to advise you on what to do. Your oxygen treatment clinic will organise your home oxygen supply from one of these suppliers:

Air Liquide: Call them on:

  • 0808 143 9991 for London
  • 0808 143 9992 for North West
  • 0808 143 9993 for East Midlands
  • 0808 143 9999 for South West

Baywater Healthcare: covers Yorkshire and Humberside, West Midlands and Wales. Call them on 0800 373 580. For more information visit the Baywater Healthcare website.

BOC: covers the East and North East of England. Call them on 0800 136 603.

Dolby Vivisol: covers the South of England. Call them on 0500 823 773.

The British Lung Foundation (BLF) may have additional oxygen contacts for the country you are travelling to. Their website offers general advice about travelling abroad with a lung condition.

Ensure you allow plenty of time to make all your arrangements before you travel.

Dialysis

You will need to speak to the co-ordinator in your UK Dialysis Unit who will contact the dialysis unit in Belgium nearest to where you will be staying. You can look up UK renal units on the Renal Association website

Ensure you make arrangements according to your UK schedule. There also may be different guidance depending on what type of dialysis you receive. Make sure you speak to your doctor before you travel.

The National Kidney Federation website offers general advice about travelling with a kidney disease, as well as specific guidance for haemodialysis patients, peritoneal dialysis patients, and guidelines for transplant patients.

Read more advice about travelling with other conditions:

Living in Belgium

If you move to Belgium to live or plan to work in the country, you’ll have to register with a social security organisation to receive medical care in the country. Registration is essential for obtaining a Carte SIS (Social Identity Card), which is required when visiting a doctor or getting medication from a pharmacy.

Once you've registered, all your dependents (such as children or a non-working spouse) are automatically covered under the same social insurance scheme.

Working in Belgium

In Belgium you do not automatically get a social security card when you start working. You must first register with a Mutuelle (French)/Ziekenfonds (Dutch).

The Belgian health insurance and social security system is administered by the several mutuelles/ziekenfonds, which are linked to the various political parties (Liberal, Neutral, Christian, and Socialist).

You are free to choose one that best suits your needs. Once you are a paying member of a mutuelle/ziekenfonds you will receive your SIS (Social Information System) card, a microchip card which carries all your details.

Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security and health insurance through the mutuelle/ziekenfonds. The amount you have to pay is set by the Belgian government.

Self-employed workers and freelancers

Self-employed people are only insured for major risks, for example hospital surgery and radiography, but you can take out additional cover for minor risks. This extra cover then entitles you to partial reimbursement for consultations, certain dental care, physiotherapy, prostheses and medication when not in hospital.

The 'personal share'

When medical costs are incurred, you will be asked to pay a portion of the costs. This is known as the personal share. This amount can be subject to a fixed maximum (a concept referred to as maximum billing) calculated with reference to income. For minor medical treatment, you usually pay the healthcare provider in full and submit a certificate detailing the treatment and cost to their health insurance scheme for reimbursement. The rate at which you are reimbursed depends on the type of care, the provider used and your personal status, for example if you are disabled, widowed, retired or employed.

Tip

If you need information about your Belgian health insurance rights read this information from the Belgian Government
 
For hospital stays and medication from a pharmacy, you pay only your personal share. The hospital or pharmacy reads the SIS card to determine the type of cover given, then collects the balance directly from the health insurance fund.

You can find more information at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office guide to living in Belgium.

Some people choose to take out additional healthcare insurance to cover them for any amounts not refunded by their health insurance scheme.

Paying for medical treatment

Receiving medical treatment in Belgium usually works on a pay-per-service basis, in which the patient is billed and pays for each individual consultation, treatment or procedure they receive, and then submits a claim to the appropriate insurance company in order to reclaim part or all of the cost. Very occasionally the total cost of medical treatment is reimbursed through the insurance policy system but usually up to 75 percent will be returned, with the remainder covered by the patient.

Tip

Find further information about social security contributions and the cost of medical care from Belgium’s Federal Public Service Social Security portal (PDF, 1.1Mb)

Seconded or posted to Belgium

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Belgium, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in Belgium. Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:

National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
BX9 1AN
United Kingdom

Telephone: 0300 200 3506
Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010
Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday – closed weekends and bank holidays 

For more information, read our information on moving abroad.

Studying in Belgium

If you are coming to study or are currently studying in Belgium as part of a UK-recognised course, you may be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK government.

You might also want to read our articles on:

Pensioners

If you are living in Belgium and you receive an exportable UK Pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 form.

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your form via the International Pension Centre in the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.

You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit. Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

Once issued, register the S1 form with the relevant authority in Belgium. Often you need to do this before you can register for healthcare or obtain a medical card.

Once you have registered your S1 in Belgium, you will be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries. 

Early retirees

Since July 1 2014, you are no longer able to apply for a residual S1 form. If you already have a residual S1, this will not affect you – it will continue to be valid until its original expiry date.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides useful information about what UK and Belgian benefits are available to Britons living in Belgium, plus information on driving regulations in Belgium.

Page last reviewed: 08/04/2014

Next review due: 30/09/2016

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