expat network

Living Abroad – Can I Get Free NHS Healthcare When Visiting The UK?

One of our members who lives in The Philippines asked whether they could still access the services of the NHS as a British passport holder.  I have been living and working outside the UK for a number of years but plan to visit family in the UK and wanted to know whether I can make use of the services of the NHS while I am visiting the UK?


When you move abroad on a permanent basis, you are no longer automatically entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system.

Hospital treatment in England is free to people classed as ordinarily resident in the UK.  Thus it not dependent on nationality, payment of UK taxes, National Insurance (NI) contributions, being  registered with a GP, having an NHS Number or owning property in the UK.

To be considered ordinarily resident and entitled to free hospital treatment, you must be living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being. You may be asked to prove this.

Former UK residents are treated the same way as other visitors to the UK.  They will be treated differently, depending on where they now live.

  • People Living In An EEA Country Or Switzerland.
    • People who live or work in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland can get free NHS care using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by the country in which they live. If you do not have or are not entitled to an EHIC you should ensure that you have private health insurance.  This includes former UK residents.
    • UK state pensioners who live elsewhere in the EEA have the same rights to NHS care as people who live in England. This applies to all pensioners who receive a UK state retirement pension and registered for healthcare in Europe with an S1 form.
  • People Living Outside The EEA
    • People who live outside the EEA, including former UK residents, are not entitled to receive free treatment from the NHS and should ensure they are covered by private health insurance, unless an exemption applies to them. Anyone who does not have insurance will be charged at 150% of the NHS national tariff for any care they receive.


Primary care is free for all and the first point of contact for most people.  This includes GPs, dentists, pharmacists and optometrists, through NHS walk-in centres and the NHS 111 telephone service.  Most hospital services are subject to charges, but some services or treatments carried out in an NHS hospital are exempt from charges, so they’re free to all.  These include: