Detailed guide: Healthcare for UK nationals visiting the EU

This information is about visiting the EU. Theres different guidance for healthcare if youre:

At the moment, when you travel to an EU country you should have both:

  • a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
  • travel insurance with healthcare cover

An EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. Make sure you have both before you travel.

Each healthcare system is different, and in some countries youll need to pay to have treatment.

Visiting the EU from 1 January 2021

For most UK nationals, EHICs may not be valid from 1 January 2021.

Make sure you take out travel insurance with medical cover for your trip.

You may not have access to free emergency medical treatment and could be charged for your healthcare if you do not get health cover with your travel insurance.

Visits to the EU that start in 2020 and end in 2021

If youre visiting an EU country over the Christmas and New Year period, your UK EHIC entitlements will continue until you leave that country to either:

  • return to the UK
  • visit another EU country


You go to Italy for Christmas and New Year, returning to the UK on 6 January 2021. You can use your UK EHIC until you leave Italy.

You have a second home in France. You leave the UK on 19 December 2020, returning from France on 1 March 2021. While youre in France, you take a day trip to Switzerland on 4 February 2021. You can use your EHIC in France only until 4 February 2021.

Using an EHIC from 1 January 2021

Some people can get a new UK-issued EHIC which will remain valid for visits that begin from 1 January 2021.

Youll be able to apply if youre:

  • receiving a UK State Pension or some other exportable benefits and living in the EU before the end of 2020
  • a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) before the end of 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
  • an EU national living in the UK before the end of 2020
  • a dependant of one of the above

If you have a registered S1, E121, E106 or E109 form you can apply now for your new UK EHIC on the NHS website.

UK students using an EHIC

If youre in an EU country on 31 December 2020 because youre studying there, you need to apply for a new EHIC.

This entitles you to medically necessary state healthcare until the end of your course.

From 1 January 2021, your UK EHIC will only be valid in the country youre studying in. Make sure you have travel insurance with healthcare cover for the duration of your course.

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC)

An EHIC covers state healthcare, not private treatment.

With an EHIC you can get emergency or necessary medical care for the same cost as a resident in the country youre visiting. This means that you can get healthcare at a reduced cost or for free.

Find out what an EHIC covers in each country. You can select the country you are planning to visit from the drop-down list.

An EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance it does not cover everything, such as mountain rescue or being flown back to the UK (medical repatriation). Make sure you have both before you travel.

Youll need to pay in full for treatment if you do not have an EHIC.

The following European countries do not accept the EHIC:

  • the Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
  • the Isle of Man
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • the Vatican

How to apply

Apply for an EHIC for free on the NHS website.

Replacing a lost or stolen EHIC

Youll need to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) if your EHIC is lost or stolen abroad.

Call the Overseas Healthcare Services. This is part of the NHS Business Services Authority (BSA).

NHS Overseas Healthcare Services
Telephone: +44 (0)191 218 1999
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Travelling with a health condition

Buy travel insurance with healthcare cover for your condition. You can use an EHIC for emergency treatment.

Read the Money and Pensions Advice Service guidance for buying travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If you need to have treatment while youre abroad, you may need to pre-arrange it. For example, if you need dialysis or oxygen treatment. Speak to your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel.

Getting prescriptions

You can use a UK prescription in pharmacies in EU countries.

Bringing medicine with you

You need a letter to prove your medicine is prescribed to you if it contains a controlled drug. You may need to show this at the border when youre entering or leaving the UK.

You may also need a licence for controlled drugs if:

  • your trip is longer than 3 months
  • youre travelling with more than 3 months supply

Read more about travelling with controlled medicines.

Travelling to have planned treatment

You cannot use an EHIC for planned treatment. For example, if youre going abroad to give birth.

You can apply for NHS funding for planned treatment. There are 2 ways to do this:

  • the S2 route
  • the EU directive route

Read the NHS guide to going abroad for medical treatment for more information on these funding routes.

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