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 Switzerland
Finding help in an emergency
If you find yourself in a serious, life-threatening emergency, you should go to the accident and emergency (A&E) unit (Notaufnahme) of the nearest hospital. Most state hospitals have an A&E open around the clock.
If you need an ambulance, dial 144. This is free of charge from any public phone. Ambulance services will only transport the patient, so anyone accompanying them will need to make their own way to the hospital. The healthcare system pays 50% of the costs – at the most, CHF500 per calendar year. In the case of medically required transport, 50% of the cost is paid, and a maximum of CHF5,000 per calendar year is paid in the case of rescue.
You will need to pay some of the cost of the ambulance yourself. Therefore, it is better to only call an ambulance if the patient is not in a fit state to go by car, taxi, bus or tram.
It is important that you stay calm and provide the following details when calling emergency services in Switzerland:
- who you are
- where you are calling from
- what has happened
- what action you have already taken
For more information, download the In an emergency leaflet (PDF, 1.45Mb).
If you need urgent medication out of hours, try one of the emergency pharmacies known as Apotheken-Notfalldienste. You can find a pharmacy closest to where you are staying on the SOS pharmacy website.
Other important phone numbers to note down are:
- 117 – police
- 118 – fire
- 1414 – Swiss Air-Rescue
- 1811 – general inquiries (doctors, theatres, etc)
- 140 – breakdown service
- 162 – weather report
- 163 – road report
- 187 – avalanche report
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 Switzerland 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
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.
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 Switzerland. 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.
Dental treatment is not covered unless it is caused by serious illness or an accident. For more information, read the Dental care leaflet (PDF, 1.59Mb)
Except for emergencies, you'll need to be referred by a doctor for any hospital treatment. Either provide your EHIC or proof of your Swiss health insurance at admission. Inpatient treatment in a state hospital is covered according to the current tariffs, but not in a semi-private or private ward, or in a private hospital.
For more information, read the At hospital leaflet (PDF, 1.50Mb).
Pharmacies also have an out-of-hours service at weekends and at night. You can ask the telephone information service which pharmacy near you is open after hours. Simply dial 1818. Information is available in German, French, Italian and English.
Note: you will have to pay extra if you buy medicines at an out-of-hours pharmacy.
For more information, download the Pharmacy guide (PDF, 1.88Mb).
A pharmacist may ask you if you prefer the original medicine or a generic version. Generic medicines are the same as original medicines but have a different name. Things to note:
- they contain the same active ingredients as the original, but they are much cheaper
- if you buy generic medicines, you still need to pay the deductible of 10%. For original medicines, you often have to pay a deductible of 20% if a generic version is available
- pharmacists are allowed to replace the originals prescribed by your doctor with the generic equivalent, unless the doctor has specifically mentioned that the original medicine must be given
- when collecting your medicines, always ask the pharmacist for the generic version
Bringing your own medicines to Switzerland
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 also 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, the UK has reached an agreement with Switzerland, which protects the rights of UK and Swiss nationals who have chosen to call each other’s countries home.
This agreement protects the rights (including healthcare cover and access to social security) of UK nationals living, or frontier working, in Switzerland by exit day for as long as they remain in scope of the agreement.
It also provides protection in other circumstances. For example, UK nationals who previously worked in Switzerland will be covered for healthcare in Switzerland should they move, or visit the country after exit day, once they draw a qualifying benefit or pension, such as a UK state pension.
This guide will be updated with further information on travelling to Switzerland as the circumstances change.
Working in Switzerland
Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU
If you work in Switzerland, you will be required to purchase the mandatory basic healthcare insurance. This entitles to healthcare under the same conditions as Swiss nationals.
The mandatory basic healthcare insurance in Switzerland covers:
- services provided by a doctor: all costs of services provided by doctors are normally covered. Doctors are required to you whether procedures they perform are covered by basic insurance
- hospital costs: hospitals should be chosen as per the list of hospitals kept by the canton (region) in which you reside. If you obtain treatment from another hospital, the costs and treatment of the general ward will only be covered up to the amount that would have been reimbursed had you sought treatment at your cantonal hospital
- accidents: if you work 8+ hours per week, your employer should insure you for work-related and non-work-related accidents under the Accidents Insurance Law
- medical transport and rescue: insurance covers half the cost of transport and/or rescue, however with a maximum cover of 500CHF for transport and 5,000CHF for rescue per year
- emergency treatment outside EU/EFTA countries: insurance covers costs up to twice the value of what would have been expected expenditure in Switzerland
If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Switzerland, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK.
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 if you're moving abroad.
After the UK leaves the EU
The Swiss Citizens' Rights Agreement protects the existing rights to equal treatment and non-discrimination for UK nationals living or working in Switzerland, and their family members. This means that these individuals will have broadly the same entitlement to work, study and access public services, including healthcare, as now.
If you remain resident in Switzerland, you will continue to be obligated to purchase the mandatory state healthcare scheme.
If you are a UK posted worker, you may need to buy additional healthcare insurance in Switzerland so you can receive the healthcare treatment you need.
Pensioners in Switzerland
Healthcare up until the UK leaves the EU
If you live in Switzerland and receive an exportable UK Pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA) 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. This right is protected by the UK-Swiss citizens’ rights agreement for those already resident in Switzerland, whether there is a deal with the EU or not.
For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance (ESA), you can apply for your certificate via the International Pension Centre in the Department for Work and Pensions on 0191 218 7777.
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 dependents access healthcare in Switzerland. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until the UK leaves the EU. This right is protected by the UK-Swiss citizens' rights agreement for those already resident in Switzerland, whether there is a deal with the EU or not.
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.
After the UK leaves the EU
UK state pensioners who are residing in Switzerland by exit day will continue to be eligible for healthcare cover as now.
As with current arrangements in Switzerland, you will need to apply for residency. There are 3 types of permits you can get:
- short-term (less than a year)
You will be obligated to purchase the mandatory state healthcare scheme. Find out more about living in Switzerland on the Foreign and Commwealth Office (FCO) website.
This guide will be updated with further information on living in Switzerland as the circumstances change.
Students in Switzerland
If you are a UK resident and studying in Switzerland, and you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this will be valid 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.
After the UK leaves the EU, you may need to apply for a residence permit. 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.
Under the Swiss Citizens' Rights Agreement, we have agreed to protect the rights of individuals who are in a cross-border situation by the date the UK leaves the EU, and entitled to an EHIC, to continue to benefit from that scheme for as long as their stay in Switzerland continues. This includes, for example, for the duration of a course of study.
Page last reviewed: 28 January 2019
Next review due: 28 January 2022