Am I entitled to NHS treatment when I move to England?

The NHS is a residence-based healthcare system, so if you move to England permanently or return to live in England permanently, you're entitled to free NHS hospital treatment.

Like other UK residents, you'll have to pay some NHS charges (for example, for prescriptions), unless you are exempt from these.

Different rules apply if you're visiting England temporarily. For more information, see Am I entitled to NHS treatment when I visit England?

NHS hospital treatment in England

If you move to the UK, you will not be charged for NHS hospital treatment from the date that you arrive, as long as:

  • you intend to live permanently in the UK, and
  • you have the right to live permanently in the UK or have a "route to settlement" (in the case of non-EEA [European Economic Area] nationals, or have Indefinite Leave To Remain [ILR] in the UK) that will allow permanent residence in due course

You'll be expected to prove that you meet these requirements.

Your spouse or civil partner and children under the age of 16 (under 19 if in full-time education) are also exempt from these charges if they live with you permanently.

If you're not entitled to live in the UK permanently, but you've applied to the Home Office to enter or stay, you'll be charged for hospital treatment until:

  • your application is granted, or
  • you have 12 months' lawful residence in the UK

If you have made a formal application for asylum, you will be exempt from charges, as long as your application (including appeals) is under consideration. Those granted refugee status will continue to receive free NHS hospital treatment.

If your claim for asylum is unsuccessful after all appeals, any ongoing course of hospital treatment will continue to be free of charge until you leave the country. 

However, any new course of treatment will be chargeable, unless you're in receipt of section 4 or section 95 UK Border Agency support.

Waiting lists

If there's a waiting list for the treatment you need, you'll have to join the waiting list.

Proving your entitlement

Hospitals are responsible for checking who should pay for NHS hospital treatment.

The hospital will ask you for evidence to prove that you intend to live in the UK permanently. The documents that you provide will depend on your circumstances.

Examples could include:

  • documents showing the sale of goods or property overseas
  • receipts showing shipping of goods to the UK
  • evidence that you're looking for work
  • evidence that you have bought property in the UK or have rented a property 
  • papers that show you've applied for benefits
  • evidence that your children are attending school in the UK 

The hospital will also ask you for evidence to prove that you're legally entitled to live in the UK, such as:

  • your British passport, or
  • permission from the Home Office

Statutory NHS charges

You'll have to pay statutory NHS charges, such as prescription charges, unless you are exempt. For more information, read Help with health costs.

Registering with a GP

Under current rules, anyone can register with a GP practice in England and receive free primary care. A GP practice can only refuse an application to join its list of NHS patients where it has reasonable grounds for doing so: for example, if their lists are closed to new patients, the applicant lives in a different practice's boundary area, or in other rare circumstances.

Once registered as a NHS patient, primary care services provided by a GP practice are free, but secondary care services (such as a referral to a specialist) are not free, simply because you're registered with a GP. 

If you have problems registering with a GP, you can try a different practice or ask for the assistance of the local clinical commissioning group

If you have problems getting an appointment, you can try a walk-in centre or GP-led health centre. Registration is not required and patients do not need an appointment. Most centres are open 365 days a year and outside office hours.

For more information, see How do I register with a GP?

Emergency treatment

Regardless of your residential status or nationality, you're entitled to free emergency NHS treatment from: 

  • an A&E department
  • an NHS walk-in centre
  • family planning services
  • diagnosis and treatment of specified infectious diseases
  • diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections
  • treatment required for a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation, domestic violence or sexual violence

However, people who are not entitled to live in the UK permanently or whose application is being considered by the Home Office will have to pay NHS charges for emergency treatment if they are:

  • admitted to hospital as an inpatient (this includes high-dependency units and other emergency treatment, such as operations), or
  • registered at an outpatient clinic

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 12/04/2015

Next review due: 11/04/2017