Some visitors to England don't have to pay for NHS hospital treatments. Find out whether you fall into any of the exemption categories below.
The exemption categories only apply to those not ordinarily resident in the UK. Those covered by the immigration health surcharge (IHS) and visitors from the European Economic Area (EEA) may also be exempt.
Reciprocal healthcare agreements
If you are resident in a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, you may be covered for some treatment needs. For more detailed information on what you are covered for, see the reciprocal healthcare agreements table (PDF, 105kb).
The reciprocal healthcare agreements with the countries listed below were terminated in 2016. If you are visiting either of these countries and access NHS treatment you may be charged for it. Therefore, please ensure you have adequate travel and health insurance.
This means, any citizen of the above listed countries who visits the UK will be charged for accessing NHS care unless it is a service that would be free of charge to all. Make sure you have adequate travel and health insurance.
UK government employees and war pensioners
You are exempt if you are a member of Her Majesty's armed forces. This will include your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, as long as they are lawfully present in the UK. As the principal exempt family member, you do not have to be in the UK with your family at the time of their treatment.
You are also exempt if you are:
- a crown servant
- employed by the British Council
- employed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- working or volunteering in employment overseas that is financed in part by the UK government
However, you must be visiting the UK as a requirement of the above employment, or you have been ordinarily resident in the UK immediately prior to taking up your current post or another of these posts in the past.
This includes your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, as long as they are lawfully present in the UK. As the principal exempt family member, you do not have to be in the UK with your family at the time of their treatment.
If you, the qualifying employee, were not previously ordinarily resident in the UK and are only exempt because you are visiting the UK as a requirement of your employment, your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18 will only be exempt when visiting the UK with you.
War pensioners or those who receive armed forces compensation scheme payments are exempt. This includes your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, provided they are lawfully present and visiting the UK with you.
Vulnerable patients, detainees, workers on ships and NATO personnel
You are exempt if you are:
- granted refugee status in the UK
- seeking asylum or temporary or humanitarian protection until your application (including appeals) is decided
- receiving support from the Home Office under section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- a failed asylum seeker and receive support from the Home Office under section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 or from a local authority under section 21 of the National Assistance Act 1948 or Part 1 (care and support) of the Care Act 2014
- a child looked after by a local authority
- formally identified, or suspected of being, a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking – this includes your spouse or civil partner and any children under 18, as long as they are lawfully present in the UK
- receiving compulsory psychiatric treatment or treatment imposed by a court order
- detained in prison or by the immigration authorities in the UK
- NATO personnel and the service cannot be provided by armed forces medical services. This will include spouses or civil partners and any children under 18 as long as they are lawfully present in the UK
Since 21 August 2017, any overseas visitors working on UK-registered ships are no longer entitled to free NHS care and their employer is liable for their NHS costs.
Page last reviewed: 10 September 2018
Next review due: 10 September 2021