Healthcare in Belgium

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS.

This means you may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care.

Visitors to Belgium

Finding help in an emergency

In the event of an emergency in Belgium, you can call 100 or 112 (or 114 hearing assisted).

This call is free of charge from any fixed or mobile phone. An ambulance will arrive quickly and take you to the nearest emergency centre – you will need to pay for this service.

Most emergency services and doctors speak English, but there is no guarantee. If possible, have a French or Dutch speaker assist you with your call. In addition, take a note of these useful Belgian phrases for emergencies.

The 2 main languages spoken in Belgium are French and Dutch. The word for "emergency" is "urgence" in French and "spoedgeval" in Dutch.

When you reach the emergency services, ask for the medical service: in French or Dutch, this is "service médical d'urgence" or "medische spoeddienst".

Other useful telephone numbers to note down are:

  • 101 – national police (police fédérale/federale politie)
  • 100 – national fire service (pompiers/medische spoeddienst)
  • 105 – the Red Cross
  • 02 648 40 14 – community help service helpline (24-hour crisis and information service in English)

Here is a useful glossary of French and Dutch medical words.

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

Emergency medical care is provided to anyone requiring urgent attention. You can expect to be charged in full for any care provided without an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).

You should always buy enough travel insurance and make sure you have access to funding to cover any medical treatment abroad. 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 any refund.

Currently, your EHIC enables you to access the necessary state-provided healthcare in Belgium at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, if you are staying there temporarily. If you are asked to pay for health services upfront, it is likely that you are not being treated under the state health system.

EHIC does not cover certain costs, including:

  • private treatment
  • being brought back to the UK
  • mountain rescue services
  • cruises

Be careful if healthcare arrangements are made by a hotel or travel representative. They might reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, but they are referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC.

People with pre-existing health conditions

If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before visiting Belgium.

You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions you have, to make sure you can get the cover you need. If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU but may not work after that.

If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Make sure you take with you any documents about your health condition or medication.

If you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment, see our section about seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Dentists

To receive treatment from a dentist, you'll have to pay a fee directly to them. It's then possible to claim back up to 80% of the costs incurred while you're in Belgium.

To claim money back, you need a receipt on the official form (attestation de soins donnés or getuigschrift voor verstrekte hulp) so you should always ask the dentist for this.

Some dentists accept part payment if you show your EHIC. Check before booking an appointment with a dentist, as treatment charges differ considerably.

Hospitals

Hospital care in Belgium is not free. Most inpatient care carries a fixed daily fee plus the cost of medicines, tests and so forth.

If you are admitted to hospital, make sure you present your EHIC (if you are a visitor) or your Belgian residence identity card (residents only) on admission.

It's advisable to take your British passport with you, too. This will save you paying any refundable costs up front and ensure you only pay the patient contribution.

A comprehensive list of hospitals in Belgium is provided by the Belgian Hospital Association (Association Belge des Hôpitaux in French and Dutch).

Head office: Dejonckerstreet 46
B 1060 Brussels
Belgium

Email: belgian.hospitals@gmail.com
Telephone: 00 32 2 543 7819

Prescriptions

You will have to pay for your prescription at the pharmacy. The EHIC does not cover the cost for prescriptions and you will not be able to claim a refund.

Most pharmacies in Belgium operate on regular working hours, with a telephone number operating 24 hours a day. If a pharmacy is closed, the nearest open pharmacy will be advertised.

You can call 0903 99 000 for information about duty pharmacies (calls cost €1.50 per minute). It's a 24-hour phone service to help you find pharmacies in your area. You can also use their online service and search for pharmacies via postcode.

Bringing your own medicines to Belgium

Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that extra legal controls apply to these medicines.

You may need a personal licence to take controlled medicines abroad.

Specific requirements also apply to:

  • the information that you must take with you
  • how you carry your controlled medicines

Visit the GOV.UK website for more information on travelling with controlled medicines.

After the UK leaves the EU

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, your access to healthcare when visiting Belgium is likely to change.

If you are planning to visit Belgium after the UK leaves the EU, you should continue to buy travel insurance so you can get the healthcare treatment you need, just as you would if visiting a non-EU country.

If you are using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

The UK government is seeking agreements with countries, including Belgium, on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after the UK leaves the EU.

This guide will be updated with further information on travelling to Belgium as the circumstances change.

Working in Belgium

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

Health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Belgium. It is financed through social security contributions to insurance providers. All insurance providers must offer the same services. In Belgium there are 5 state health insurance schemes, that all operate as not-for-profit.

If you are working in Belgium, you'll have to register with a social security organisation (mutuelles or ziekenfonds) to receive medical care in the country.

Very occasionally, the full cost of medical treatment is reimbursed through the mutuelles or ziekenfonds, but usually up to 80% will be returned with the remainder covered by the patient.

Once you've registered, all your dependants, such as children or a non-working spouse, can also be covered under the social insurance scheme.

Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security and health insurance through the mutuelles or ziekenfonds. The amount you have to pay is set by the Belgian government.

You can also choose to take out further private health insurance coverage, which covers any fees not reimbursable by the mutuelles or ziekenfonds.

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Belgium, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you are posted to. Contact HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) for more details:

National Insurance Contributions and Employer Office
HM Revenue and Customs
BX9 1AN
United Kingdom

  • Telephone: 0300 200 3500
  • Outside UK: +44 0191 203 7010

Opening times: 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (closed weekends and bank holidays).

For more information, read the Moving abroad section of this website.

Further information about current arrangements can be found on the Belgian social security website.

After the UK leaves the EU

If you are paying social security contributions to Belgium, you will continue to be able to access healthcare on the same terms as a Belgian national resident there. You will require a long-stay residence permit, for which details will be published shortly.

You may be able to apply for a permanent residence permit if you have legally been in Belgium for more than 5 continuous years.

If you are a UK posted worker, you may need to buy healthcare insurance in Belgium so you can receive the healthcare treatment you need.

Pensioners in Belgium

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

If you live in Belgium and receive an exportable UK pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 certificate.

You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit.

Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website.

Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

S1 certificate (formerly known as E106)

An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Belgium. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states.

You should continue to apply for an S1 certificate until the UK leaves the EU.

You may be eligible for an S1 certificate, if you:

  • have worked and paid contributions in the UK
  • receive some UK benefits such as pensions

Apply through the Business Services Authority for an S1 certificate.

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your certificate via the International Pension Centre at the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.

Further information is available under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad on the GOV.UK website.

Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

After the UK leaves the EU

People who have resided in Belgium for more than 5 years (continuous) may be eligible to apply for a permanent residency.

You must contribute to the same social health insurance as Belgian citizens to receive the same healthcare entitlements. Legal residents over the age of 25 years are required by law to join a health insurance fund.

If you wish to retire in Belgium you will need to demonstrate proof of health insurance covering all the necessary costs and proof of sufficient finances.

Students in Belgium

If you are a UK resident and studying in Belgium, and you have an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU. It is recommended that you continue to buy healthcare insurance in addition to your EHIC.

After the UK leaves the EU, you should also continue to buy insurance to cover your healthcare, as you would if you were visiting a non-EU country.

Page last reviewed: 28/01/2019
Next review due: 28/01/2022