Hospital treatment is free to people who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom (UK). If you do not normally live here and you do not meet one of the exemptions from charges then you will have to pay for any treatment you might need. This is regardless of whether you are a British citizen or have lived or worked here in the past.

The full cost of all treatment you receive, including emergency treatment, given by staff at a hospital or by staff employed by a hospital. There are some services that are free of charge to everyone:

  • Treatment given only in an emergency department (ED) or in a NHS Walk-in Centre providing services similar to those of an ED department (excludes emergency treatment given elsewhere in the hospital);
  • Certain diseases where treatment is necessary to protect the wider public health, for example COVID-19
  • Treatment for all sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV treatment.
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment;
  • Family planning services.




updated 23.12.2020

Visitors from EEA member states should show a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access free healthcare. A valid EHIC entitles the patient to free treatment for conditions that need to be treated during the visit, which cannot wait for treatment until returning home.

If you cannot show either an EHIC or Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) covering the dates of your treatment, you will be liable to pay for treatment at 150% of the published NHS tariffs for healthcare.

Visitors from NON EEA countries with whom the UK has a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement (see DHSC Guidance for Implementing Overseas Visitor Charging Regulations February 2020 Points 10 – 10.8), will need to show proof that they are a national/resident (as appropriate) of the country, e.g residence permit, identity card, social security card, utility bill, passport etc in order to be exempt from charges. 

Most reciprocal agreements provide free treatment only when the need arises during a visit to the UK. Pre-existing conditions that acutely exacerbate here, or in the opinion of a clinician need prompt treatment to prevent them from acutely exacerbating, e.g. dialysis, are also included.





updated 23.12.2020