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Can visitors to the UK use the NHS?

By Dan Halls

​You might be considering relocating here for work and decide to visit the UK first to get to know the places and people a bit better. But as an overseas visitor, are you able to use and benefit from the NHS?

The answer is yes, but you may be charged for some NHS treatments and depending on how urgent it is, you will usually need to pay in advance.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the UK’s healthcare system is probably different from your home country’s and therefore if you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it might not cover everything that you would expect to get free in your country (the card only applies to those from EEA countries and Switzerland).

Only non-EEA nationals who have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status are entitled to free secondary care. Guidance on overseas visitors' hospital charging regulations.

Within England, free NHS hospital treatment is provided based on a person being ‘ordinarily resident’. This isn’t dependant on nationality, payment of UK taxes, National Insurance contributions, being registered at a GP surgery, having an NHS number or owning a property in the UK. If you are required to pay, NHS staff will let foreign visitors know in advance if it’s chargeable before the medical care begins.

Treatment in A&E departments, GP surgeries and under the Mental Health Act are free for all. There’s also no charge for treatment for specific infectious diseases, sexually transmitted infections or family planning services. The NHS has clear exemptions in place to protect the most vulnerable people and ensures treatment is always available to those in the UK who need it urgently regardless of their eligibility status.

It’s not yet clear whether an exit from the EU will result in changes to international visitors’ entitlements.

To find out more about relocating or your next role in the UK, contact Keith Pilkington.