You are here:

Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in Italy

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.

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will enable you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Italy at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free when on a temporary stay. 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.

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.

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 most European countries. Emergency treatment is available free or at low cost to anyone in need in Italy.

It is important that you stay calm and provide the following details when calling emergency services in Italy:

  • Who you are and your phone number
  • Describe the emergency situation
  • Specify the place of the emergency
  • Where you are and possible points of reference

Other important phone numbers to note down:

  • 112 – general emergencies (medical, fire and police)
  • 118 – ambulance (Emergenza sanitaria)
  • 113 – police (Carabineri)
  • 115 – fire brigade (Vigili del fuoco)
  • 170 – International Operator (English speaking) (Informazione internazionali)

There is no guarantee that all emergency services and doctors will speak English. If possible, have a local person assist you with your call. In addition, take a note of these useful Italian phrases for emergencies and doctors appointments.

For more advice on how to access emergency care in Italy visit the Italian Ministry of Health website.

 

Health services and costs

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable.

You should be particularly careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. They might reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, but they are referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC.

It's always advisable to have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. Repatriation for medical treatment is not covered by the EHIC.

 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.

If you move to Italy or stay in the country for more than three months then you need to register with the National Health Services (SSN Servizio Sanitario Nazionale). The Italian NHS provides free or low-cost health care to everyone registered, including their families, university students and retirees. Registration with the SSN is implemented in the ASL (Azienda Sanitaria Locale –local health authority) closest to your place of residence. 

Download the InformaSalute – Access to the NHS by foreign citizens information leaflet (PDF, 571kb) for detailed information about the Italian healthcare system, how to register with the SSN or obtain your SSN medical card which you will need to  present every time you want to use a health service.

General practitioners and paediatricians

Once you are registered with the SSN you are entitled to register with a local GP. You can find GPs in your area via your ASL office (local health authority).

If you have children under the age of 14 then it is recommended that you also register with a paediatrician. Each GP or paediatrician has an outpatient department which guarantees free general medical examinations at the fixed hours. 

Dentists and hospitals

In case of an emergency (general or dental) while on holiday in Italy visit your nearest SSN hospital or any Guardia Medica, which offers an after-hours First Aid Service. Make sure you have your EHIC card with you.

Italy treats dentistry as specialist treatments. So just like in the UK, you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital or dental treatment. Make sure you are referred to a public hospital, that you have a valid EHIC or SSN medical card and double-check you are not treated as a private patient.

Hospital or dental treatments are not necessarily free of charge and you may be asked to make a patient co-payment ‘the ticket’. The cost should be marked on you GP’s referral documents.

  • Hospitals in Italy are called 'Ospedale' and have emergency rooms 24h (Pronto Soccorso).
  • Private hospitals are called 'Casa di cura' or 'Clinica' and do not have emergency rooms.
  • Note not all doctors and nurses in Italy are fluent in English.

Co-pay fee (ticket) exemption
The ticket is the co-pay fee provided by the SSN. The co-pay fee must be paid at the payment counter of the outpatient department or hospital before using medical services. Some particular circumstances (disability, chronic diseases, and status of inability, low income or age reasons) entitle patients to co-pay fee exemption. For further information on the requisites for exemption and on the issuing of the exemption certificate or card, you can refer to the exemption office of your ASL (local health authorities in Italy).

Prescriptions

You can take your prescription to any pharmacy (farmacia) in Italy. They can be identified by a green cross. Prescriptions are generally not free and you are expected to make a co-payment towards it. However, some medicines are considered ‘life-savers’ and those are free of charge. Others are not covered by the SSN and you will have to pay the full costs for those.

Italian pharmacies are regulated by law, which means you will always find an open pharmacy in your area at night, holidays and Sundays. Each pharmacy displays information about its opening hours and out-of-hours emergency telephone numbers.

Bringing your own medicines to Italy

If you have a condition that requires you to bring your own medicines to Italy, you should have a letter from your GP stating what the medicines are and why you need them. If possible, have the letter translated into Italian, as this will also be useful in case you need to see a health professional during your stay. You should also carry your medicines in their original containers. Make a note of the generic scientific name of your medicines in case you need to refill them at a pharmacy.

If any of your medicines fall into the controlled drugs category, you need to comply with regulations on drug exports in the UK.

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 doctor. 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 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 need to speak to the co-ordinator in your UK Dialysis Unit, who will contact the dialysis unit in Italy nearest to where you will be staying. The Renal Association offers a way to look up UK renal units.

TipEnsure you make your 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. In addition, visit the National Kidney Federation website, which 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 Italy

Working in Italy

If you move to Italy long-term or plan to work in the country, you'll have to make sure you register with the Italian authorities including the SSN (Servizio Sanitario Nazionale). Once you are registered to work in Italy and make National Insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as an Italian national.

Download the InformaSalute – Access to the NHS by foreign citizens information leaflet (PDF, 571kb) for detailed information about the Italian healthcare system, how to register with the SSN or obtain your SSN medical card which you will need to present every time you want to use a health service.

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Italy, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in Italy. 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, visit the Moving abroad section.

Studying in Italy

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

Pensioners

If you live in Italy 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 at 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 Italy. Often you need to do this before you can register for healthcare or obtain a medical card.

Once you have registered your S1 in Italy, 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 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. For more information visit the Moving abroad section.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides useful information about Britons living in Italy.

Prescriptions for residents

Italy uses a co-payment system where residents are required to pay a percentage of the cost of their prescription medication. If you are a pensioner and have paid more than you should have for prescription medication, speak with your pharmacist in Italy or local health authority (ASL) to confirm the process for claiming a refund.

Page last reviewed: 22/03/2016

Next review due: 22/03/2018

Marine creature stings

Information on jellyfish, stingray, weever fish and sea urchin stings, and when you should seek medical help

Safer sex on holiday

Protect yourself from a sexually transmitted infection or unplanned pregnancy on holiday

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC): hot summer holidays

Always expect the unexpected: a painful lesson the young man in this video had to learn. Find out why you should have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when you go abroad.

Media last reviewed: 17/02/2015

Next review due: 17/02/2017