Information for Overseas Visitors about hospital treatment and paying for care
The NHS is a state funded organisation which provides free hospital treatment to people who are ordinarily resident and legally living in the UK.
If you are not ordinarily resident in the UK, you may be subject to the Department of Health’s Charges to Overseas Visitors Regulations 2015 and you may have to pay for your hospital treatment, even if you have a British Passport, or have paid National Insurance contributions and taxes in this country in the past.
What happens if I attend the Accident and Emergency Department?
Treatment received in the Accident and Emergency Department is free of charge to everyone. However, where emergency treatment is given after admission to the hospital as an in-patient or out-patient appointment, it is chargeable to non-exempt overseas visitors. You may be asked to complete a Pre-Attendance Form in the Accident & Emergency Department which will assist us in assessing your eligibility.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
If you are from an EU country and have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) please show this when attending the hospital. This card allows us to reclaim the cost of your treatment from your home country and as long as it is valid, stops us from charging you. If you are visiting from the EU and do not have an EHIC you may get charged for you treatment (excluding Accident and Emergency care).
The EHIC only covers free treatment when the need for it arises during a visit and pre-existing conditions that are acutely exacerbated here, or in the opinion of a clinician, need prompt treatment to prevent them from acutely exacerbating. The routine monitoring of chronic/pre-existing conditions is NOT included in free treatment, and free treatment will be limited to that which is urgent in that it cannot wait until the patient can reasonably return home.
How can I prove that I am entitled to free hospital treatment?
In order to receive free hospital treatment you will need to provide evidence that you are legally living within the UK.
Some examples of evidence required:
If I am not eligible for free treatment, what will I have to pay for?
NHS bodies are legally obliged to charge liable patients for treatment, and recover all money. You will be charged for any treatment given to you outside of the Emergency Department, both in the hospital and the community.
What is immediately necessary, urgent and non-urgent treatment?
Only Clinicians can make an assessment as to a patient’s need for treatment. However, no matter what category, liable patients are expected to pay all treatment costs.
Immediately necessary – is that which a patient needs (including maternity treatment).
To save their life, to prevent a condition from becoming life-threatening, promptly to prevent serious damage from occurring.
NHS bodies MUST provide treatment, whether or not the patient has been informed of the charges, or agreed to pay.
Treatment cannot wait until the patient can reasonably be expected to return home. Payment should be secured before treatment is scheduled.
Routine elective treatment, could wait until the patient returns home. NHS bodies should NOT provide non-urgent treatment if the patient does not pay in advance.
For further information regarding eligibility to free NHS treatment please email the Overseas Visitors Team or telephone on 01582 497450.