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How to access NHS services in England if you're visiting from abroad

This information is for people who are visiting England from abroad. It tells you how to access different types of healthcare and whether you might need to pay.

Find out how to access healthcare, including planned treatment, in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and treatment

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:

  • testing for coronavirus (even if the test shows you do not have coronavirus)
  • treatment for coronavirus

No immigration checks are needed if you only have testing or treatment for coronavirus.

See GOV.UK: NHS entitlements for migrants for information in other languages on free testing and treatment.

How to get healthcare

If you're not sure how to get the help you need, use this checklist to guide you.

For information about conditions and treatments, read the Health A-Z guides.

You will need to pay for some things such as eye tests, dental treatment and prescriptions, just like people who live in England.

Find out more about paying NHS charges.

General practitioners (GPs)

GPs are the first point of contact for nearly all NHS patients.

They can direct you to other NHS services and are experts in family medicine, preventative care, health education, and treating people with multiple and long-term conditions.

If you're planning to live and work in England, you need to register with a GP practice.

You'll need to fill out a GMS1 form using exactly the same details you used when you filled out your visa.

It's up to the GP practice to decide whether to accept new patients or not, but they can only refuse for non-discriminatory reasons.

But being registered with a GP practice does not in itself mean you'll be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment.

Being registered with a GP practice may mean you're invited for NHS screening services, but you may still have to pay for these services when they're not provided by the GP practice.

If you're in England for a short visit but need to see a GP, you can register as a temporary patient with a local doctor.

You need to be in the area for more than 24 hours but less than 3 months.

Again, it's up to the GP practice to decide whether or not they'll accept new patients.

Treatment will be free of charge, but make sure you present your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you have one. (See more information on this page for citizens of EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland).

Find a GP practice in your area.

Information:

Download a copy of It's your practice: a patient guide to GP services (PDF, 1.92Mb), which is produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners, to help you choose, and get the most from, GP practices.

Hospital services

Hospital treatment is free to people who are "ordinarily resident" in the UK.

To be considered ordinarily resident and entitled to free hospital treatment, you must be living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being. You may be asked to prove this.

If you're a visitor from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, you'll need to present a valid EHIC or other healthcare documents (such as S2, PRC or S1 forms), or you may be charged for your care.

Citizens of other countries who are subject to immigration control are not classed as ordinarily resident unless they have indefinite leave to remain.

If you're visiting England from a country outside of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland for more than 6 months, you'll need to pay the immigration health surcharge, unless you're exempt from paying it.

This surcharge will generally cover you for healthcare – the same as someone who's ordinarily resident.

If you're visiting England from a country outside of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland for less than 6 months, you need to ensure you're covered for healthcare through personal medical insurance during your visit, even if you're a former UK resident.

If you need NHS hospital treatment, you will be charged at 150% of the national NHS rate if you are a national of a country outside of the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Some services or treatments carried out in an NHS hospital are exempt from charges, so they're free to all.

These include:

Information:
  • a GP referral is required for all non-emergency hospital treatment
  • for a detailed definition about what ordinarily resident means, see the GOV.UK guidance

Page last reviewed: 30 January 2020
Next review due: 30 January 2023