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This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country

NHS charges for people from abroad

Your entitlement to free NHS treatment depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. You might be charged for some NHS services, for example, your dental treatment, though you could be entitled to help with these charges. Any free NHS treatment you receive, or any help with NHS costs, does not affect your immigration status.

If you are entitled to it, you can obtain free treatment immediately. There is no qualifying period.

If you have to pay for treatment because you do not meet the residence conditions, this does not count as discrimination. However, you must be given clear information about charges in a way you understand. This could include providing information in a foreign language or an interpreter, if necessary. If you aren't given clear information, this might be discrimination and you can complain about it.

NHS hospital treatment

You can find out about health and social care services in Northern Ireland on the HSCNI website.

Paying for hospital treatment

Once the hospital has established that you must pay for treatment, you will usually be asked to pay the full cost in advance, unless emergency treatment is required immediately.

If you cannot pay in advance, the hospital will ask for a written undertaking to pay.

If you cannot provide proof that you can afford to pay, treatment will be refused and you may be offered the chance to be treated privately.

Refusal of treatment

If you are not entitled to receive free NHS hospital treatment you will not be refused medical treatment that stabilises a life-threatening condition, for example, for renal failure. Treatment will be given to deal with the emergency, but you will be expected to return home for it to be completed, once the emergency is over.

If there is not an emergency, but treatment has to start immediately, you may be asked to give an undertaking to pay. In these circumstances, it is very important that you find out the likely cost.

If it is not urgent, you will be given the opportunity to refuse the treatment if you cannot afford it. Treatment can be delayed until you can raise the money. If you cannot do so, treatment will be refused.

If you're entitled to free hospital treatment, but have been told that you will be charged, you should contact the Health Board.

GPs and dentists

It’s up to the GP or dentist whether they accept you onto their list of NHS patients.

There are some exceptions to these rules though, for example if you need emergency treatment.

A patient doesn’t need to be “ordinarily resident” in the country to be eligible for NHS primary medical care – this only applies to secondary (hospital) care.

A GP practice may be flexible in deciding whether to accept you as a registered patient and if you are visiting the UK for less than 3 months, they may accept you as a temporary resident. However there are certain services you may have to pay a fee for. Your residency status is not a determining factor in whether or not to accept you as a registered patient. 

If you're visiting the UK from the EEA, you should present a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) when attending a GP practice, so they can recover the costs of your treatment from your home country.

If you have difficulty finding a GP or a dentist who is prepared to register you, contact the Business Services Organisation on 0300 555 0113 or go to www.hscbusiness.hscni.net.

Charges

Even if you are accepted onto a GP or dentist's list of NHS patients, you may have to pay charges for some things like prescription charges and dental treatment.

For more information about charges and the help you might get to pay for them, see Help with health costs.