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NHS charges for people from abroad

This advice applies to Scotland

Visitors to Scotland don’t have to pay NHS charges for the diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus. 

You can read guidance about healthcare for overseas visitors on the NHS inform website.

Some NHS treatment is free and available to anyone who needs it. This includes:

  • treatment in a hospital Accident and Emergency department
  • seeing a GP - as an NHS or temporary patient
  • family planning services
  • treatment for some infectious diseases
  • compulsory psychiatric treatment

Whether you can get other free NHS services depends on the length and purpose of your residence in the UK, not your nationality. Check if you're entitled to free NHS healthcare on NHS inform.

You will still have access to free NHS healthcare even if you have no recourse to public funds

Even if you’re entitled to free NHS healthcare, you might be charged for some NHS services, like dental treatment, prescriptions and glasses. You might not have to pay for these services if you can get certain benefits like Income Support. 

You might be able to get help to pay - check if you can get help with health costs.

Any free NHS treatment you receive, or any help with NHS costs, won’t affect your immigration status. 

Getting healthcare if you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland

You can keep using the NHS for free if you started living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020. If you're an Irish citizen you can get free NHS healthcare when you start living in the UK - it will not depend on the date. 

The EEA includes EU countries and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. 

Your family members can continue to use the NHS, even if they joined you after 31 December 2020. 

You need to be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK to get free NHS healthcare. This means you’re living in the UK legally and you plan to stay - you might be asked to prove this.

If you're not ordinarily resident in the UK, you might be charged for NHS services.

If you’re visiting the UK from an EU country you can use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in that country. Your EHIC will cover the costs of treatment if you get ill on the visit.

If you’re visiting the UK from Norway you can use your Norwegian passport to get medically necessary healthcare for free - for example an accident or illness that can’t wait until you get home.

If you started living in the UK after 31 December 2020

You'll only get free NHS treatment if you have:

  • a visa and paid the immigration health surcharge
  • a visa and are exempt from the immigration health surcharge
  • indefinite leave to remain
  • permission to stay as a family member of an EEA citizen who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020

Using your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you're from the EU, EEA or Switzerland and were living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you can apply for a new EHIC. 

You can use your card to cover the costs of treatment if you get ill while visiting the EEA.

Accessing treatment

If you're entitled to free treatment, you can get it immediately. You don’t need to have been here for a certain amount of time.

If you don’t meet the conditions for free treatment, you must be given clear information about charges in a way you understand. This could include providing information in your own language or through an interpreter. 

Find out where to start if you’re making a complaint about the NHS

NHS hospital treatment

To find out if you can get free hospital treatment, see health services for overseas visitors on the Scottish Government website.

The NHS inform website has information about health care for:

Paying for hospital treatment

If you have to pay, you'll usually have to pay before you have the treatment.

You won't have to pay before if you need urgent treatment but you might still have to pay after.

If your treatment is urgent

If you’re not entitled to free NHS hospital treatment, you'll still get medical treatment that stabilises a life-threatening condition, like renal failure. You’ll get treatment to deal with the emergency, but you’ll have to return home to complete the treatment once the emergency is over.

If your treatment is not urgent 

If it’s not an emergency, but treatment has to start immediately, you might be asked to sign an undertaking to pay. 

In these circumstances, it’s very important to find out the likely cost. If the treatment is not urgent, you can refuse it if you can’t afford it. You can delay your treatment until you can raise the money. If you can’t raise the money, you’ll be refused treatment. 

If you're entitled to free hospital treatment, but have been told you’ll be charged, you should contact the NHS organisation that’s charging you and explain why you’re entitled to free treatment.

If you're entitled to free hospital treatment, but have been told that you'll 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're visiting the UK for less than 3 months, they might accept you as a temporary resident. However, there are certain services you might 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 have difficulty finding a GP or a dentist who is prepared to register you, contact NHS 24 on 111. 


Even if you are accepted onto a dentist's list of NHS patients, you have to pay charges for dental treatment.

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

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