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National Health Service for Expats in the United Kingdom

Submitted: July 2013

The National Health Service (NHS) is Britain’s taxpayer-funded healthcare service. It is free, albeit subsidised prescription charges apply in England, mostly for medications, dental care and eye treatment. The UK healthcare system revolves around the NHS, which is a public service administered by the Department of Health.

Management of the NHS is “devolved”. Consequently, there is NHS England, NHS Wales, NHS Scotland, and HSC Northern Ireland (also commonly called “NHS Northern Ireland”). However, this division may be largely unnoticed by patients because of high “cross-border” cooperation at UK level.

A private medical insurance policy might supplement NHS services. See Health Insurance for Expats in the UK

Unconditionally free services

Some services are always free of charge. These include:

Residence-based free services

The NHS is normally free if you are “ordinarily resident” in the UK. Residence for NHS purposes is different from tax residence.

NHS hospitals (other than for the above mentioned services) are free if you:

Your family members may also be entitled to free treatment if you fall under one of the above categories, but they must generally be living with you whilst you are in the UK.

Free services for certain non-residents

As a general rule, non-residents are not entitled to free routine treatment for a pre-existing condition. However, hospital is free if you are a non-resident and fall ill during a visit to the UK if you:

If you are not entitled to free NHS treatment, the hospital may ask you to pay in full in advance, or to sign an undertaking to pay. This does not apply if you require emergency treatment immediately, but you are expected to return to your home country once your health stabilises.

General Practitioners and dentists for expats

A GP or dentist has some flexibility to determine if you are resident in the UK to get free treatment. Therefore, it is critical to demonstrate that your stay in the UK has some degree of stability or permanence.

A GP or dentist may also accept you as a temporary resident if you stay in the UK for less than three months. This is not automatic however, and a GP or dentist may also offer to accept you as a private patient, for which you would be charged. For more information on GP registration, see Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in the UK

Emergencies outside the hospital are normally free.



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