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Planning your healthcare abroad

If you're a UK national living in the EU, you should get ready for possible changes to your access to healthcare that might happen if there's a no-deal Brexit.

For example, if you're a current S1 form holder, or a posted worker or student using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you will not be able to use these to access your healthcare as you do now if there's a no-deal Brexit.

Living in the EU after Brexit

You should review your access to healthcare now. There may be a gap or permanent change in how you access healthcare if there's a no-deal Brexit and no arrangements with EU countries in place.

Some EU countries have made no-deal healthcare offers. You should check the living in country guides on GOV.UK, or the country guides on the NHS website, to find out if this is the case in your country of residence.

You need to make the best decisions for your circumstances and consider:

  • registering to live in your country of residence
  • registering for healthcare under the local rules and legislation of the country you live in – you may need to be a long-term legal resident or pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare
  • buying comprehensive health insurance while you're applying for residency or if you're not eligible for local schemes

Make sure you have all the right documentation and it's up to date.

Get help paying for medical treatment after Brexit

During the first 6 months after Brexit, if you need medical treatment and you're being asked to pay for it, the UK can help.

This may be through arrangements with the country you live in, or by paying your healthcare provider directly.

To organise a payment you'll need to give your healthcare provider's details to the NHS Business Services Authority's Overseas Healthcare Services.

Call the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 (0)191 218 1999 for more information. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 3pm (UK time).

Using NHS services

You will not be able to use NHS services for free when visiting the UK if you're living in the EU and the UK government does not currently pay for your healthcare.

You should take out appropriate travel insurance when visiting the UK, as you would when visiting any other country.

You'll be able to use NHS services for free in England, Scotland and Wales when visiting the UK if:

  • you have a UK-issued S1 form or EHIC
  • you're currently eligible for the UK to fund your healthcare access

If you return to the UK permanently and meet the ordinarily resident test, you'll be able to access NHS care without charge.

Moving to another country

Moving to another country can be an overwhelming experience. Travel arrangements, accommodation and visa or work permits are obvious things to consider when preparing to move, but what about planning for your healthcare?

If you're moving abroad on a permanent basis, you'll no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.

You'll have to notify your GP practice so you and your family can be removed from the NHS register.

Before leaving for your new destination, it's important to check what health services are available to you in that country.

Healthcare systems vary from country to country and might not include services you'd expect to get free of charge on the NHS.

In most cases, you'll have to register with the relevant authorities abroad.

Once you're registered to work and make national insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-run healthcare on the same basis as a resident of that country.

But many countries still expect you to make patient contributions or to join the national health insurance scheme.

Information:

Use the country guides to find out what rules apply in the country you're moving to.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also provides useful information for British nationals living abroad on GOV.UK, including information on entry and residence requirements, health, benefits and finance.

Living and working abroad

There are circumstances in which you might be entitled to healthcare paid for by the UK.

This will depend on whether you want to live abroad permanently or only work outside the UK for a set period.

The assistance available only applies within Europe and can also depend on whether or not you receive a UK State Pension or other UK benefits.

You will not be covered for healthcare paid for by the UK if you're going to live permanently outside the European Economic Area (EEA).

If at any time in the future you want to come back to England for planned treatment, further information about accessing healthcare services can be found on the visiting or moving to England pages.

Early retirees

You can no longer apply for a residual S1 (formerly residual E106), which previously provided temporary healthcare to early retirees moving to other EEA countries.

What this means for you

Before moving to live abroad, it's important that you check how the healthcare system works in that country and what your entitlement will be if you intend not to work, as this varies from country to country.

This means you'll have to access that country's health system under their rules. Use the country guide for the country you're moving to find out more.

If you're moving abroad on a permanent basis, you'll no longer be entitled to medical treatment in the UK under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.

Most people will also not be entitled to use a UK-issued EHIC card to access healthcare abroad.

If you already have a residual S1

If you already have a residual S1, this will not affect you. It will continue to be valid until its original expiry date.

Where to get advice

For further advice, contact Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 (0) 191 218 1999.

You can also write to the following address to ask for advice:

Overseas Healthcare Services
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN

General requirements

If you move to an EEA country or Switzerland long-term or plan to work in another EEA country, you'll need to register with the appropriate authorities.

Once you're registered to work in the country and make national insurance contributions, you'll be entitled to state-provided healthcare on the same basis as a national of that country.

Check whether there are any other entry requirements for the country you're going to.

Use the country guides for more guidance on access to healthcare, or get help for British nationals living overseas on GOV.UK.

If you're a worker posted by a UK company to an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you're posted to.

You can find out more from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC):

Contact HMRC about health cover abroad (UK residents)

Contact HMRC about health cover abroad (non-UK residents)

Au pair or nanny

If you're working as an au pair or nanny in an EU country, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you're currently entitled to an EHIC for a period of up to 12 months.

After 12 months you must obtain healthcare cover in the country where you're working.

If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU or if your treatment started before exit day.

Your EHIC may not be valid if there's a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on arrangements with individual countries and might mean you need to pay in full for treatment.

British Armed Forces

If you're stationed in an EEA country or Switzerland, you and your dependants are entitled to a UK-issued EHIC.

This means your EHIC will cover you and your dependants if you visit a country other than the one you're stationed in.

If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until the UK leaves the EU or if your treatment started before exit day.

Your EHIC may not be valid if there's a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on arrangements with individual countries and might mean you need to pay in full for treatment.

UK pensioners

If you're living in an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland and you 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'll need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 form.

But if you receive a pension from the country in which you now live and your UK pension, that country will be responsible for your healthcare and an S1 will not be applicable.

If you receive your UK pension as well as a pension from an EU member state, but are now living in a different EU state, the country to which you paid contributions toward your pension for the longest period becomes responsible for your healthcare.

For exportable UK pensions and contribution-based Employment Support Allowance, you can apply for your form from the Overseas Healthcare Services on 0191 218 1999.

You may need to liaise with a different team, depending on the exportable benefit. GOV.UK has more information on claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad.

Different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

Once issued, register the S1 form with the relevant authority in your country of residence.

Often you need to do this before you can register for healthcare or obtain a medical card.

Once you have registered your S1 in the country you're moving to, you'll be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries.

You cannot apply online for a UK-issued EHIC. Instead, you'll need to request an EHIC-E application form with Overseas Healthcare Services.

Call 0191 218 1999 from the UK or +44 (0)191 218 1999 from abroad, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Page last reviewed: 23 September 2019
Next review due: 23 September 2022