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Country-by-country guide

Accessing healthcare in Switzerland

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.

The Swiss healthcare system is a combination of public, subsidised private and fully private systems. 

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to access state-provided healthcare in Switzerland at a reduced cost and will cover your treatment until you return to the UK. It also covers the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth. No cost participation is required for maternity benefits.

Non-EEA nationals are not covered in Switzerland unless you are a stateless person or a refugee.

Find help in emergencies

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should go to the accident and emergency (A&E) unit (Notaufnahme) of the nearest hospital. Most public hospitals have an A&E open around the clock.

If you need an ambulance, dial 144. This is free of charge from any public phone. Ambulance services will only transport the patient, so you will need to make your own way to the hospital. The healthcare system pays 50% of the costs – at the most, CHF 500 per calendar year. In the case of a medically required transport, 50% of the costs are paid, and a maximum of CHF 5,000 per calendar year is paid in the case of rescue.

You will need to pay some of the cost of the ambulance yourself. So, it is better to only call an ambulance if the patient is not in a fit state to go by car, taxi, bus or tram.

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

  • who you are
  • where you are calling from
  • what has happened
  • what action you have already taken

For more information, download the In an emergency leaflet (PDF, 1.45Mb).

If you need urgent medication out-of-hours, try one of the emergency pharmacies known as Apotheken-Notfalldienste. You can find a pharmacy closest to where you are staying on the SOS pharmacy website.

Other important phone numbers to note down:

  • 117 – police
  • 118 – fire
  • 1414 – Swiss Rescue
  • 1811 – general inquiries (doctors, theatres, etc)
  • 140 – breakdown service
  • 162 – weather report
  • 163 – road report
  • 187 – avalanche report 

Health services and costs

Your EHIC does not cover private treatment, so make sure you are treated by a state-funded healthcare provider. Some healthcare providers offer both services in Switzerland. 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.

Contact the Gemeinsame Einrichtung KVG before you travel for more advice:

Gemeinsame Einrichtung KVG
Gibelinstrasse 25
Postfach
CH-4503 Solothurn

Email: info@kvg.org

Telephone: +41 (0) 32 625 30 30 

  • Monday to Thursday: 8am-12pm and 1.30pm-5pm
  • Friday:  8am-12pm and 1.30pm-4pm

Alternatively, you can visit the KVG website (available in English). Here you can download information leaflets in English relating to healthcare coverage in Switzerland.

Tip

You can find GPs (Doktors), dentists (Zahnärzte), pharmacies (Apotheken) or hospitals (Krankenhäuser/Spitals) via the telephone directory. There is also an online version of the Swiss yellow pages.

TipRemember 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 a refund or reimbursement.

If you move to Switzerland long-term or plan to work in the country, you'll have to register with one of the state health insurance companies. You'll have to pay a monthly health insurance premium as well as a contribution to the costs when seeing a doctor.

For more information, see the Health guide to Switzerland (PDF, 2.79Mb). This guide is intended to help people living in Switzerland – and particularly migrants – to understand how to use the Swiss healthcare system. It contains information about medical care and explains important laws and regulations, as well as health and disability insurance.

Dentists

Dental treatment is not covered unless it is caused by serious illness or an accident. For more information, read the Dental care leaflet (PDF, 1.59Mb).

Hospitals

Except for emergencies, you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital treatment. Either provide your EHIC or proof of your Swiss health insurance at admission. Inpatient treatment in a public hospital is covered according to the current tariffs, but not in a semi-private or private ward, or in a private hospital.

For more information, read the At hospital leaflet (PDF, 1.50Mb)

Prescriptions

Medicines and bandages prescribed by your GP can be obtained from any pharmacy in exchange for the prescription.

Pharmacies also have an out-of-hours service at weekends and at night. You can ask the telephone information service which pharmacy near you is open after hours. Simply dial 1818. Information is available in German, French, Italian and English.

Note: you will have to pay extra if you buy medicines at an out-of-hours pharmacy.

For more information, download the Pharmacy guide (PDF, 1.88Mb).

TipA pharmacist may ask you if you prefer the original medicine or a generic version. Generic medicines are the same as original medicines but have a different name:

 

  • They contain the same active ingredients as the original, but they are much cheaper.
  • If you buy generic medicines, you still need to pay the deductible of 10%. But for original medicines, you often have to pay a deductible of 20% if a generic version is available.
  • Pharmacists are allowed to replace the originals prescribed by your doctor with the generic equivalent, unless the doctor has specifically mentioned that the original medicine must be given.
  • When collecting your medicines, always ask the pharmacist for the generic version.

Making healthcare arrangements in advance

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.

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 advices 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 Switzerland nearest to where you will be staying. The Renal Association has a list of UK renal units.

Ensure you make your arrangements according to your UK schedule. Also, there 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.

Also read the advice about travelling with conditions such as:

Living and/or working in Switzerland

Everyone living in Switzerland must have health and accident insurance. This basic insurance coverage is compulsory for everyone, regardless of their age, origin or residence status. You have three months to take out insurance after a birth or after moving to Switzerland.

There are more than 60 health insurance companies in Switzerland. Every health insurance company offers the same benefits in the basic health insurance policy. These benefits are laid down in the Health Insurance Act (KVG). For an overview of the health insurance companies in Switzerland, see www.priminfo.ch.

For more information, download the Health insurance leaflet (PDF, 1.51Mb) or contact the KVG directly:

Gemeinsame Einrichtung KVG
Gibelinstrasse 25
Postfach
CH-4503 Solothurn

Telephone: +41 (0) 32 625 30 30 
Monday to Thursday: 8am-12pm and 1.30pm-5pm
Friday: 8am-12pm and 1.30pm-4pm

The KGV also provides leaflets with information for persons who are insured with a health insurance in an EU or EFTA-state (European Free Trade Association).

Living in Switzerland

If you are living in Switzerland and you're receiving a UK State Pension or are in receipt of long-term Incapacity Benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You'll need to apply for form E121 (a certificate of entitlements). Once you have registered your E121 with Gemeinsame Einrichtung KVG in Switzerland, you will be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC, allowing you to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries besides the one in which you are resident, including when you return to the UK.

You'll also have to apply for an E121 form if you move to Switzerland but don't work and don't receive any UK benefits. In this case, you may be eligible for up to two-and-a-half years of state healthcare paid for by the UK.

For applications and advice, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on 0191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm). Also read the Living abroad section on this site.

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.

Working in Switzerland

If you are planning to work for more than two years and up to five years in Switzerland, your employer should contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the following forms:

  • E101 – this will show that tax and NI contributions are paid in the UK
  • E106 – this will give you and your family the same medical cover as Swiss residents

HMRC
Charity, Assets and Residence
Room BP1301
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

For more information, visit the Working abroad section.

How to claim refunds

You may be asked to pay your bill upfront and then claim a refund using your EHIC. You should always try to apply for your refund before you return home.

For information on reimbursement of costs in Switzerland, download the KVG information leaflets.

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 a refund or reimbursement.

You will not be eligible for a refund if you have been treated privately.

Page last reviewed: 17/06/2013

Next review due: 17/06/2015

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: 22/08/2013

Next review due: 22/08/2015