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Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in Bulgaria

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 patient contribution to the cost of your care. In some cases, you may be able to ask for a refund when you are back in the UK.

Visitors to Bulgaria

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access state-provided healthcare in Bulgaria at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. It will cover your treatment until you return to the UK. It also covers treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.

Non-EEA nationals are not covered in Bulgaria

Where to get health information while in Bulgaria

Healthcare in Bulgaria is provided by the National Health Insurance Fund, which will be able to provide you with information.

National Health Insurance Fund
1 Krichim Str.
Sofia 1407

Telephone: 0800 14 800
Website: www.nhif.bg

Find help in emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should call 112. This number is free of charge and valid in all Bulgarian territories.

Other important phone numbers to note down:

  • 150 – ambulance
  • 160 – fire/rescue
  • 166 – police
  • 178 – pharmacy on duty

Health services and costs for visitors

Doctors

About 90% of doctors in Bulgaria are registered with the National Health Insurance Fund - however, always check before making an appointment. There is a small charge for seeing a doctor. This is non-refundable.

If you require medication, a doctor will usually issue you a receipt form (for non-chronic diseases) or a prescription (chronic illnesses).

Dentists

You should consult a dentist who has a contract with the National Health Insurance Fund. However, a patient contribution might be charged. If the dentist does not have a contract with the National Health Insurance Fund, you will be charged the full cost of the treatment and those charges are not refundable.

Hospital treatment

Inpatient treatment is provided by public and private hospitals. However, you should ask to be referred to a hospital that has a contract with the National Health Insurance Fund, as they will cover the cost of treatment. After being discharged from hospital, you are entitled to a maximum of two examinations as part of your inpatient care.

Prescriptions

If you have been issued a receipt form, you'll be able to get your medication either for free or at reduced costs. However, ensure you take the receipt form to a pharmacy that is registered with the National Health Insurance Fund - otherwise, you will have to pay the full price.

If you have been issued a prescription, you can visit any pharmacy in Bulgaria but you will have to pay the full cost. This is non-refundable.

Ambulance

Using an ambulance in cases of emergency is free.

 

Making healthcare arrangements in advance

The most common treatments or conditions that require advanced arrangements are listed below. For all other conditions or treatments, you should consult your GP. Remember, for all treatments abroad you must present your EHIC.

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.

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 Liquid: 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 how to make travel arrangements, including advice on:

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

Dialysis

You need to speak to the co-ordinator in your UK Dialysis Unit who will contact the dialysis unit in Bulgaria nearest to where you will be staying. The provision of dialysis will be subject to availability in Bulgaria.

 

Living in Bulgaria

If you are planning to move to Bulgaria on a long-term basis, you will no longer be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system. You’ll also have to notify your GP so that you and your family can be removed from the NHS register.

If you register to work in Bulgaria and make National Insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state provided healthcare on the same basis as a national of Bulgaria.

If you are a worker seconded to Bulgaria, your employer should contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for an S1 form (previously E106 or E109) – this will give you and your family the same medical cover as residents of that particular country.

The S1 form is also online (PDF, 119Kb).

You’ll need to register the S1 form with the appropriate authorities in Bulgaria before you register with a local GP surgery.

If you plan to stay and work in Bulgaria for one year or less you’ll also have to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which enables you to access healthcare while working abroad. 

UK pensioners

If you are living in Bulgaria and you receive a UK State Pension or long-term Incapacity Benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You'll need to apply for a certificate of entitlement also known as an S1 form (see above).

Once you have registered your S1 in Bulgaria, 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

From July 1 2014 you are no longer able to apply for 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. Find out more about the new rules.

Page last reviewed: 23/06/2011

Next review due: 23/06/2013

EHIC changes

You will no longer be able to claim a refund in the UK for most patient co-payments for treatment recieved after July 1 2014

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Media last reviewed: 13/06/2014

Next review due: 13/06/2016