Am I entitled to NHS treatment when I visit England?

When you visit England, you'll normally have to pay for NHS treatment unless you're exempt from charges.

Different rules apply if you're moving to England permanently or returning to live in England permanently. For more information, see Am I entitled to NHS treatment when I move to England?

What does exempt from charges mean?

This means that someone who is an overseas visitor to the UK is entitled to full NHS hospital treatment free of charge under certain regulations.

The Department of Health provides guidance about overseas visitors and hospital charging regulations (PDF, 421kb).

Who is exempt from charges?

Some visitors to the UK are entitled to at least some NHS hospital treatment free of charge. These include people working for UK-based employers and students on courses of at least six months' duration.

UK state pensioners living outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and those visiting from countries that have a healthcare agreement with the UK are also entitled to free hospital treatment, but not pre-planned treatment or treatment that can await their return home.

If you don't normally live in the UK and you're not exempt from charges, you will have to pay for NHS hospital treatment that you need during your stay unless the treatment falls into one of the categories where NHS treatment is free for everyone.

See information for visitors to England for lists of who is exempt from some or all NHS hospital charges.

Proving your entitlement

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

The hospital will ask you for evidence to confirm whether you should pay. You may be asked to provide proof that you're on a short-term visit using your passport, identity card or travel documents.

What services and treatments are free for everyone?

There are some situations where initial treatment is available free on the NHS to all overseas visitors. These include:

However, unless you're exempt from charges, you'll have to pay NHS charges if you're admitted to hospital (this includes high dependency units and other emergency treatment, such as operations) or referred to an outpatient clinic.

Private health insurance

If you think you'll have to pay for treatment, you're strongly advised to take out health insurance before you travel. Your insurance should cover the length of time you'll be in the UK. You cannot buy this insurance from the NHS.

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

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 21/11/2015