All types of medical treatment involve some element of risk. It's important to get as much information as possible about your treatment options so that you can make informed choices.
Read our guidance about the risks of treatment abroad and go through the checklist below before making a decision.
Think about your reasons for going abroad
Make sure your decision is based on the quality of the medical care you would like to receive and not on how appealing the destination seems for a holiday.
Know the warning signs
Think carefully before booking any treatment abroad if there is:
- a hard sell
- a lack of information
- pressure to make a quick decision
- no discussion of possible complications
- no mention of aftercare
Get a second opinion
Have you spoken to your GP, dentist or clinician? There are several reasons why it's a good idea to involve your doctor in your decision. Your doctor can give you a valuable second opinion as well as advice about treatment options and whether it is necessary. As your doctor could be involved in your aftercare, discuss with them how to transfer medical notes to the overseas team.
Do your research
- Have you checked the qualifications of the medical team treating you?
- Have you been able to ask them questions about your treatment?
- Are you satisfied with the facilities and standards at the clinic or hospital where you will be treated?
Read the articles below as a guide to what to ask about your treatment and aftercare.
Check if the treatment is available in England
If the treatment you are seeking is treatment that would not be available to you on the NHS in England, then you will not be eligible for funding through either the S2 or EU Directive routes (unless exceptional circumstances apply).
If you still decide to proceed with self-funded treatment abroad you may want to think about why it is not available here. For reassurance, consider:
- whether the treatment is licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- whether the treatment is approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)
- whether the treatment is being offered as part of medical research listed within the international clinical trials database information from sources other than from the organisation offering you the treatment abroad. This could help you to verify what you're being told by whoever is offering the treatment. It may also provide you with questions you would want to ask the chosen treatment provider
What about aftercare and possible side effects or complications?
- Make sure you understand the possible complications and side effects that could arise from your treatment.
- Ensure you are clear about how your aftercare will be co-ordinated.
Do the maths
If your main reason for going abroad is to save money, make sure you've factored in fluctuating exchange rates, the possibility of extending your stay if necessary and the cost of possible return trips. If you are expecting the NHS to fund the treatment in another EEA country (or Switzerland, under the S2 route), it's also important that you've checked your entitlement and, if necessary, applied for funding in advance of treatment.
Check you are sufficiently insured
- Do you have appropriate travel insurance?
- Have you informed your insurer of your plans to have treatment abroad?
Check if you need prior authorisation from the NHS
Depending on the funding route and treatment you are seeking in Europe you may need prior authorisation from NHS England.
- If you are applying under the S2 route, prior authorisation is always required.
- Under the EU Directive route, only certain specified types of treatment require prior authorisation. Learn which services require prior authorisation (PDF, 72kb). Please note that this is not necessarily a definitive list.
We recommend you always apply for funding before travelling abroad, to ensure you understand your entitlement before starting treatment.
Compare your funding options
If you make an application for prior authorisation of treatment under the EU Directive route, NHS England will, in the first instance, determine whether or not you meet the requirements of the S2 route. If you satisfy the criteria for approval under the S2 route, you will be granted authorisation via that route, unless you specifically request to use the Directive route – for example, to access the private sector abroad. The S2 route is considered more attractive because you do not have to pay the healthcare costs upfront (except for co-payments) and you may be covered for costs that exceed the NHS equivalent. Compare the funding options.
It can take up to 20 working days for an application to be processed and a decision to be made. However, it may take longer if your application is not complete and additional information is required. If you have already had the treatment and your application under the EU Directive route is approved, the reimbursement itself can take an additional 30 working days to be processed.
How much reimbursement will I receive if I travel for dental treatment in another EEA country?
You need to be entitled to treatment under the EU Directive route to claim any reimbursements. How much you receive will depend on the type of treatment carried out.
NHS dentistry in England operates a patient co-payment system and the level of co-payment depends on the treatment that is needed. Any reimbursement issued under the EU Directive route will only cover what the treatment would have cost the NHS. The calculation of this cost will include a deduction for any co-payment that would have been payable to the NHS.
Can I get reimbursement for treatment received on a cruise ship?
No. Treatment required during a cruise is not covered under any healthcare agreement that the UK has with other countries in the world, including EEA countries.
Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance and have informed your insurer of your plans to have treatment abroad, such as dialysis (also see the box below on dialysis).
How do I access funding for dialysis abroad?
Although your EHIC covers the provision of oxygen, renal dialysis and routine medical care, you'll have to arrange and book medical treatment before you go. You should always consult your GP or hospital before travelling. Also, ensure you are not booked with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by the EHIC. However, if you've done your research and there are only private dialysis providers available you can apply for funding/reimbursements (PDF, 102kb) under the EU Directive route. You'll need to apply before you travel abroad for treatment.
Note: ensure you are using the latest available form (as provided on this site) before submitting your application. Applicants using an outdated form may be asked to supply further information or resubmit their application.
You'll also need to speak to the co-ordinator in your UK dialysis unit, who will contact the dialysis unit in the EEA country you will be staying in. You can look up UK renal units on The Renal Association website.
Ensure you make your arrangements according to your UK schedule. There may also be different guidance depending on what type of dialysis you receive. Speak to your doctor before you travel. In addition, visit the National Kidney Federation, 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.
Dialysis outside the EEA
Dialysis is not routinely funded by the NHS for patients travelling to a non-EEA country, unless the UK has a reciprocal agreement with the country in question. For more information, please contact NHS England firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does this funding involve my travel and accommodation costs?
No. NHS England does not reimburse travel and accommodation costs that you incur while seeking medical treatment in other EEA countries or Switzerland.
Page last reviewed: 24 April 2018
Next review due: 24 April 2021