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How to access NHS services in England if you are visiting from abroad

This information is for people who are visiting England from abroad. It tells you how to access different types of healthcare and whether you might need to pay.

Find out how to access healthcare, including planned treatment, in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:

  • testing for coronavirus (even if the test shows you do not have coronavirus)
  • treatment for coronavirus – including for a related problem that affects some children called multisystem inflammatory syndrome
  • vaccination against coronavirus

No immigration checks are needed.

See GOV.UK: NHS entitlements for migrants for information in other languages.

How to get healthcare

If you're not sure how to get the help you need, use this checklist to guide you.

For information about conditions and treatments, read the Health A-Z guides.

You will need to pay for some things such as eye tests, dental treatment and prescriptions, just like people who live in England.

Find out more about paying NHS charges

General practitioners (GPs)

GPs are the first point of contact for nearly all NHS patients.

They can direct you to other NHS services and are experts in family medicine, preventative care, health education, and treating people with multiple and long-term conditions.

If you're planning to live and work in England, you need to register with a GP practice.

You'll need to fill out a GMS1 form using exactly the same details you used when you filled out your visa.

It's up to the GP practice to decide whether to accept new patients or not, but they can only refuse for non-discriminatory reasons.

But being registered with a GP practice does not in itself mean you'll be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment.

Being registered with a GP practice may mean you're invited for NHS screening services, but you may still have to pay for these services when they're not provided by the GP practice.

If you're in England for a short visit but need to see a GP, you can register as a temporary patient with a local doctor.

You need to be in the area for more than 24 hours but less than 3 months.

Again, it's up to the GP practice to decide whether or not they'll accept new patients.

Treatment will be free of charge, but make sure you present your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you have one (see more information on this page for EU citizens).

Find a GP practice in your area

Information:

Download a copy of It's your practice: a patient guide to GP services (PDF, 1.92Mb), which is produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners, to help you choose, and get the most from, GP practices.

Hospital services

Hospital treatment is free to people who are "ordinarily resident" in the UK.

To be considered ordinarily resident and entitled to free hospital treatment, you must be living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being. You may be asked to prove this.

You cannot be considered ordinarily resident in the UK unless you have indefinite leave to remain or status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you're a visitor from the EU, even if you're a former UK resident, you can use your EHIC, PRC or S2 when visiting the UK. If you cannot provide these documents, you may be charged for your care.

If you're a visitor from Norway, you can get medically necessary healthcare using your Norwegian passport.

If you’re a visitor from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland whose visit to the UK began on or before 31 December 2020, you may continue to use your EHIC or PRC in the UK for the duration of your visit. You also may complete planned treatment using your S2, as long as authorisation for this was requested from the relevant health authority before 31 December 2020.

If you're visiting from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland you may be charged for NHS healthcare. You should check with the relevant health authority where you live before travelling to the UK.

If you're visiting England for more than 6 months, you'll need to pay the immigration health surcharge, unless you're exempt from paying it. The full amount will be paid upfront for the duration of your visa.

You can find full details about healthcare surcharges, including exemptions, on GOV.UK

If you've paid the surcharge or are exempt from paying it, and your visa allows you to be here for more than 6 months, you'll be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment in England on a similar basis to an ordinarily resident person, with the exception of NHS-funded assisted conception services. Your entitlement will apply from the date your visa is granted until it expires. You'll have to pay some charges, such as prescription or dental charges.

If you're visiting England for less than 6 months, you should ensure you're covered for healthcare through personal medical insurance during your visit, even if you're a former UK resident. If you're not ordinarily resident in the UK and you need to pay for NHS hospital treatment, you'll be charged at 150% of the national NHS rate.

Services that are free to everyone

Some services or treatments carried out in an NHS hospital are exempt from charges, so they're free to all.

These include:

Information:
  • a GP referral is required for all non-emergency hospital treatment
  • for a detailed definition about what ordinarily resident means, see the GOV.UK guidance

Read more about hospital services in England or find a hospital in your area.

Page last reviewed: 6 January 2021
Next review due: 6 January 2024