Healthcare in Italy

Each country's health system is different and might not include all the things you would expect to get free of charge from the NHS. This means you may have to make a patient contribution to the cost of your care.

Visitors to Italy

Finding help in an emergency

If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should call 112. This number is free of charge and is also for the police and fire brigade.

Emergency healthcare services are free of charge to anyone in urgent need of medical attention. Those with insurance will be able to access additional services, while those without will receive a basic level of care only in emergencies.

Be aware that if you ask a hotel or travel representative to call a doctor, you may be treated privately. If you wish to be treated under the state system you must call 112 and ask for an ambulance to take you to the nearest state hospital.

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

The government always advises UK citizens to take out travel insurance when going overseas, both to EU and non-EU destinations.

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 Italy 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 system. EHIC does not cover private treatment. There are also other exclusions, such as the cost of returning people to a home country.

Be especially 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. EHIC does not cover certain costs, including:

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

Provisional replacement certificate (PRC)

A PRC is a certificate demonstrating a person's entitlement to EHIC. If you need healthcare but do not have your EHIC with you, you can call Overseas Healthcare Services and ask them to send a PRC to show to the hospital. This will avoid you being directly charged.

Contact Overseas Healthcare Services:

UK: 0191 218 1999
Outside UK: +44 191 218 1999
(Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, UK time)

People with pre-existing health conditions

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

Hospitals

In general, just like in the UK, you need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital treatment. Make sure you are referred to a state hospital as only these provide treatment free of charge. Even in a state hospital you will need a valid EHIC. Double check you are not treated as a private patient.

You can find primary medical services at local health authorities (Azienda Sanitaria Locale – ASL), which includes GP and paediatrician services. These are free-of-charge consultations for residents registered with the Sistema Sanitario Nazionale (SSN), the national health system.

In the state healthcare system, you have the right to insist your EHIC is accepted. You do not have to provide travel insurance details unless you choose to do so.

Prescriptions

You will generally have to pay for prescriptions separately even if you are registered with the SSN. However, some medicines are considered "life-savers" and are given out free of charge. Check with your local pharmacy if the medicine you are purchasing is considered a "life-saver".

When using your EHIC, people of working age are charged 50% and pensioners are charged about 10%. Pensioners will have to declare they receive a UK State Pension in order to pay the lower rate.

Bringing your own medicines to Italy

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

You can visit the GOV.UK website for more information about 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 Italy is likely to change. If you are planning to visit Italy after the UK leaves the EU, you should continue to buy travel insurance and ensure that any insurance product you buy has the necessary healthcare coverage to ensure you can get any treatment you might require. 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 Italy, on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after the UK leaves the EU.

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

Working in Italy

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

EHIC does not cover residency of over 90 days in Italy, therefore UK nationals living and/or working in Italy must register as a resident and apply for access to the same healthcare entitlements as Italian nationals.

If you have a residence permit to live in Italy and are registered with the Italian national health system (SSN), you are entitled to the same access to healthcare as Italian nationals including emergency care and free-of-charge hospital admission.

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Italy, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you are posted to.

Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for more details:

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

  • Telephone: 0300 200 3500
  • Outside UK: +44 191 203 7010

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

For more information, see Planning your healthcare when moving abroad.

After the UK leaves the EU

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

Pensioners in Italy

Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU

If you live in Italy 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)

A S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Italy. 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 in 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.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) provides information about what UK and Italian benefits are available to Britons living in Italy and information on driving regulations in Italy.

Students in Italy

If you are a student living in Italy, different healthcare arrangements apply to you. Most students are not eligible for registration with the SSN and will have to purchase private health insurance to reside in Italy.

You can also purchase full medical coverage from the SSN itself, which will cost €150 per year.

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