Have you recently moved abroad, or are planning on moving soon? Many expats from the UK are confused as to whether they are still entitled to use the NHS while living abroad.
The National Health Service (NHS) is the government-funded medical and healthcare services that everyone living in the UK can use without being asked to pay the full cost of the service. However, can a British citizen living abroad still use the NHS?
In this NHS moving abroad guide, we’ll talk you through all your options when it comes to getting healthcare abroad and your NHS entitlement as an expat.
We’ll answer all your NHS moving abroad questions, including whether you lose your NHS number, what happens if you receive a UK state pension, what happens if you’re returning to the UK, and whether you can use the NHS if you work abroad.
So, let’s get started. Here’s everything you need to know about getting NHS healthcare after leaving the UK to live abroad.
In simple terms – no, British citizens living abroad cannot use the NHS. The NHS is a residence-based healthcare system, which means you can no longer access its services if you are permanently living abroad. When moving out of the UK, you must inform the NHS of your non-residency so that you can be removed from the register.
However, if you’re only moving out of the UK temporarily, you may still be entitled to NHS healthcare. If you temporarily live or work in another European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland, you will still be able to access the NHS as long as you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Another exception is if you’re a UK State Pensioner living the EEA and claiming a UK State Pension, you will still be eligible for NHS healthcare, as your rights are unchanged.
The EHIC card allows you to access public healthcare in another EU/EEA state for free or at a reduced rate. You can use it when travelling abroad or when temporarily staying in another EU state.
An EHIC card:
You can apply for an EHIC card if:
If you don’t have your European Health Insurance Card for any reason when abroad, you can get a Temporary Replacement Certificate, which gives you the same entitlement as the EHIC, but for a shorter period.
You can apply online for a Temporary Replacement Certificate, in person or by post to your Local Health Office.
We would advise getting travel insurance as well as an EHIC given that your EHIC only covers medical costs. Therefore, it may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs.
By contrast, travel insurance can cover you for other potential circumstances, such as cancellation, lost or stolen luggage and other extras.
Depending on which country you are living in, you may have alternative access to local healthcare. However, this alternative healthcare abroad might not be at the same level as the services provided by the NHS in the UK, and they could come at a cost. Therefore, many expats from the UK consider international health insurance essential.
International health insurance works in a similar way to health insurance in the UK. With it, you are covered for emergency treatment, diagnosis and post-treatment care. Having international health insurance in place can help you avoid healthcare expenses when living abroad.
International health insurance benefits usually vary plan by plan, but often include:
So, before venturing off to live in another country, it is important to weigh up your healthcare options and ensure that you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Having the correct cover in place will provide peace of mind as you settle into your new home.
If you moved to the EU before 31 December 2020 and are of State Pension age or are receiving certain benefits, then you may remain eligible for NHS treatment.
If this is the case you’ll usually need to apply for an S1 form. This will be used to prove your eligibility for NHS healthcare despite living abroad.
You should note that, if you receive a pension in another country, you may not be able to claim NHS treatment. If you receive a UK State Pension and a pension from the country you’ve moved to, you cannot get an S1 form. This is because the country you live in is now responsible for your healthcare.
If you receive your UK State Pension as well as a pension from the EU member state, but are now living in a different EU state, the country you paid contributions toward for the longest period becomes responsible for your healthcare.
If you are permanently returning to the UK after living abroad you’ll immediately be entitled to free NHS healthcare and treatment.
It’s important to register with your local GP surgery as soon as you return to the UK, and plan ahead to make sure you have the medication you need.
You’ll also need to arrange for the transfer of your medical records from the healthcare centre in your old country back to your GP in the UK.
If you’re planning on moving abroad, it’s important to consider your options when it comes to healthcare.
If you are permanently moving out of the UK, you will no longer be entitled to free NHS healthcare and treatment. However, if you are of State Pension age and aren’t drawing a pension in another country, you may still be entitled to NHS care.
If you’re only moving abroad temporarily or going travelling, you can apply for an EHIC card which will allow you to access public healthcare in another EU country for free or at a reduced rate.
Find out more NHS change of address guides here