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Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in Ireland

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.

It is important that you ensure that you are treated by a state healthcare provider as you will not be covered for private healthcare. You should be particularly careful if the healthcare arrangements have been made by a hotel or travel representative.

The UK and Irish authorities have an agreement where UK residents do not need their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare services if they are on a temporary stay in Ireland. It is enough to show proof that you are ordinarily resident in the UK, such as a driving licence, passport or similar documentation that shows your NHS number or its equivalent.

Non-EEA nationals are covered in Ireland.

Public health services in Ireland are provided in hospitals and communities across the country.

Tip

For information about health services in Ireland, your entitlements and how to access health or social services, contact the HSE infoline on 1850 24 1850 in Ireland or +353 41 685 0300 from abroad, visit www.hse.ie, or email infoline1@hse.ie

Find help in emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious life-threatening emergency, you should call 999 or 112. Use these numbers for fire, ambulance, police and the coastguard. Regardless of which number you call in Ireland, there will be no difference and the call will be handled in the same manner. The call is free of charge to the caller.

Health services and costs

Make sure you are treated by a state-funded 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 not refunded.

Tip

Use the HSE service finder to find GPs (including out-of-hours GPs), hospitals, dentists, pharmacies and other health services near you. If you have a smartphone, you can also download the free EHIC app produced by the EU, which has information about how to contact health services in the country you are visiting. 

Doctors

You can contact any GP who is contracted to the Primary Care Reimbursement Services (PCRS) scheme. More than 2,000 doctors, representing the majority of GPs in Ireland, are contracted to the scheme. Treatment is provided free of charge by PCRS doctors to those who are eligible under EU regulations.

You can get details of PCRS doctors in your area from the Local Health Office. If you are not sure whether the GP is a PCRS doctor, tell them that you are seeking treatment under EU regulations.

GPs operate specified hours for surgery visits and these vary from practice to practice. Telephone the GP surgery in your area for their opening hours. Out-of-hours cover is provided at other times  a telephone number for this service is usually provided on the GP's telephone answering service.

Seeing a specialist

Your GP will refer you to a specialist if they think this is necessary. Make sure to tell the GP that you want to be treated as a public patient. Many consultants in Ireland see patients both publicly and privately. If you see the consultant as a private patient, you will not be covered by EU regulations. Treatment by consultants is provided free of charge in the public system to those who are eligible.

Dentists

Emergency dental treatment is available from dentists contracted to the Local Health Office. If you need to see a dentist, contact the Local Health Office or health centre in your area to get details of contracted dentists or Local Health Office clinics.

In emergencies, check that the dentist you choose is contracted to the Local Health Office to provide services under the PCRS system. Make sure to tell them that you are seeking treatment under EU regulations.

Other services

Certain ear or eye services are available free of charge to those eligible under EU regulations. In line with the arrangements for Irish residents, you should contact the Local Health Office in your area in the first instance to access such services.

Prescriptions

Prescription medicines must be obtained from a GP contracted to the PCRS scheme, who will use a special prescription form to indicate to the pharmacist that the medicine is to be provided free of charge. A prescription charge must be paid for each item of medicine. The current charge is €2.50 per item up to a maximum of €25.00 per month per family.

Hospital treatment

In an emergency, you can go directly to the Accident and Emergency unit of any public hospital. There is no charge for those eligible under EU regulations.

For scheduled inpatient or outpatient treatment in the public system, you will need to be referred by a GP or specialist consultant contracted to the PCRS scheme. Remember to ask to be referred as a public patient.

Inpatient and outpatient treatment in the public system is provided free of charge to those who are eligible under EU regulations. Treatment or accommodation as a private or semi-private patient is not covered by these regulations.

Getting to hospital

Call 999 or 112 in case of immediate need of transport by ambulance to the nearest hospital.

Making healthcare arrangements in advance

The most common treatments or conditions that require advanced arrangements are listed below. You should consult your doctor for all other conditions or treatments. UK residents do not need their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access healthcare services if they are on a temporary stay in Ireland. It is enough to show proof that you are ordinarily resident in the UK, such as a driving licence, passport or similar.

Oxygen therapy

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.

Your home oxygen supplier is not required to provide a service outside the UK, but 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 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 Ireland nearest to where you will be staying. However, the provision of dialysis will be subject to availability in Ireland.

Living and/or working in Ireland

UK citizens who come to live, work and study in Ireland or to retire are eligible for a medical card provided they are covered by UK social insurance or have a UK State Pension. The medical card entitles you to receive certain health services free of charge. UK citizens are usually asked to produce some evidence of their entitlement to healthcare in Ireland, such as proof of property rental or ownership.

TipDo you have a question about your health services, your entitlements, or how to access HSE health or social services in your area? Contact the HSE infoline on 1850 24 1850 in Ireland or + 353 41 6840300 from abroad.

Medical card

A medical card entitles you to:

  • free GP services
  • prescribed drugs and medicines, subject to a charge per item prescribed
  • public hospital services
  • certain dental, optical and hearing services
  • maternity and infant care services
  • a range of community care and personal social services

How to qualify for a medical card

To qualify for a medical card, you will need to satisfy the Health Service Executive (HSE) that you live in Ireland, intend to live there for at least a year, and are eligible based on your UK social insurance or pension.

To establish that a person is ordinarily resident, the HSE may require:

  • proof of property purchase or rental, including evidence that the property in question is the person's principal residence
  • evidence of transfer of funds, bank accounts and pensions
  • residence permit or visa
  • work permit or visa, or statements from employers
  • in some instances, the signing of an affidavit (a sworn written statement) by the applicant

Applying for a medical card

You can apply online for a medical card on the medicalcard.ie website. This is the quickest way of obtaining the card.

Alternatively, you can download a medical card application form:

If you have any questions before you send your application, you can phone 1890 252 919 from Ireland, contact your Local Health Office, or email clientregistration@hse.ie.

You can also get the application form and a list of participating GPs from your local health centre or Local Health Office. Take the form to the GP you have chosen from the list of participating doctors. Return the form to the Client Registration Unit, along with the documentary evidence specified on the form. You can track the progress of your medical card application at medicalcard.ie.

TipIn  general, you must choose a doctor whose surgery is within seven miles of your home, unless there is no doctor in that area. 

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: 16/05/2014

Next review due: 16/05/2016

EHIC changes

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

Special agreements

There is an agreement between the UK and Irish authorities that means that form S1 (formerly E106 and E121) and the EHIC are not needed by UK residents visiting, working or living in Ireland. 

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