NHS Treatment when travelling abroad


Under NHS legislation, the NHS ceases to have responsibility for people when they leave the UK to live abroad on a permanent basis. This is because the NHS is a Residency Based System.

People traveling within Europe should be advised to carry either a UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) (for most people) or a UK European Health Insurance Card (UK EHIC) if you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement which entitles them to medically necessary state-provided healthcare whilst in a European Union (EU) country or Switzerland.. Not all state healthcare is free within the EU and Switzerland and so you may have to pay for services that you would get for free on the NHS. For most people, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (UK GHIC) replaces the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for new applications.

Requests for extra supplies of medications for patients who wish to travel abroad

The BMA guidance on prescribing in General Practice states that the NHS accepts responsibility for supplying ongoing medication for temporary periods abroad of up to three months. This applies for both holidays and working abroad. If a person is going to be abroad for more than three months, then only a sufficient supply of his/her regular medication should be provided to enable them to get to the destination and find an alternative supply. The patient should be advised to register with a local doctor for continuing medication, which they may need to pay for; the patient should check if the medicines required are available in the country being visited. GP practices however are not responsible for finding a doctor or ensuring medication supplies are available at the holiday destination. The patient is responsible for finding and registering with a local doctor and for confirming a regular supply of their medication. NHS prescriptions must never be obtained by relatives or friends on behalf of patients who are currently abroad, irrespective of such factors as owning a house in the UK or paying UK taxes. Patients are responsible for ensuring that any drugs they take into a country conform to local laws Further information is available on the NHS website and the UK government website.

Controled drugs and travellers 

A personal import/export licence is not required by the Home Office if a person travelling abroad is carrying less than3 months’ supply of a controlled drug (schedules 2, 3, or 4 Part I (CD Benz) and Part II (CD Anab), but is required for longer periods. See the BNF. Advice to prescriber - It is advised that a covering letter from the prescriber is obtained that confirms the name of the patient, travel plans, the name of the prescribed controlled drug, total quantity and dose. Patient responsibilities - The patient should check with the embassies or High Commission for the countries they will be travelling through to ensure that import and export regulations in those countries are complied with Patients should also check any additional requirements that their travel operator/airline company may impose. Patients can obtain further information on carrying controlled drugs abroad from Bringing medicine containing a controlled drug into the UK.