European Health Cards – What healthcare are UK citizens entitled to when travelling in the EU?

Brexit is now – finally – becoming established and understood.  One important area for British citizens travelling to the EU is access to Healthcare, especially in emergency situations.

Prior to Brexit the European Health Card (EHIC) gave UK citizens access to free non-planned healthcare services when travelling in the EU and some other nations that subscribed to the scheme as well, including Iceland and Switzerland.

GHIC card

Post Brexit arrangements for Healthcare in the EU

Following Brexit  the EHIC has been replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)  This has wider reaching possibilities going forward as reciprocal health arrangements are agreed with non-EU countries.

EHIC’s can still be used in the EU up to their expiry date, but only on the terms agreed for the GHIC below.

This means that:

  • If the citizens or legal residents of that country receive free healthcare, you will also be treated free of charge.
  • If the citizens or legal residents of that country pay for a specific treatment, you must also pay in the same manner.

What does my GHIC cover?

  • Doctor’s visits. You should consult with a doctor that has a contract with the national health insurance fund in the country you are visiting. If you are not familiar with the health scheme, ask your hotel, travel guide, or locals for help in finding a doctor.
  • You will usually need a referral from a doctor to be hospitalized unless it is an emergency. Some hospitals may charge a small fee for your stay in the first few days, others will not charge anything at all.
  • Prescription medication. Most national health insurance funds will cover prescription medication, either fully or to a degree. Flu and cold medicine or over-the-counter painkillers are usually not covered.
  • Dental care. In most cases, you are covered for basic and emergency dental treatment. More complex or expensive procedures, such as dentures or crowns are not always covered by national healthcare, and therefore not by an EHIC either.
  • In most cases, ambulances are covered by the national healthcare fund, so if you need an ambulance while abroad, your EHIC should cover you.

Remember: These services are not necessarily free and may be subject to some fees, depending on the country. Sometimes, you have to pay at the time of treatment, then ask for reimbursement later on.

How do I get a GHIC?

For UK Citizens an application should be made through the NHS Website Application Portal      

There is no charge, and your card is usually with you in a few days: Your National Insurance number and /or National Health registration number will help speed things along


Please remember that EHIC/GHIC are not substitutes for Insurance as part of your travel package: Ensure you are covered for all eventualities should the worst happen whilst you are on your travels.