Eligibility for the National Health System (NHS)

Find out who is eligible for NHS treatments in the United Kingdom...

Changes in 2015 now mean that people eligible for free NHS hospital treatment is provided on the basis of someone being ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK. This term broadly means the country in which a person is normally resident.  Eligibility is not dependent upon nationality, payment of UK taxes, national insurance contributions, being registered with a GP, having an NHS number or owning property in the UK. These changes affect visitors and former UK residents differently, depending on where they now live.

UK pensioners living abroad who have registered a valid UK S1 form with the relevant authorities in their country of residence, and have their healthcare paid for by the UK,  are now entitled to return to England to receive free NHS hospital treatment, just like someone who is ordinarily resident in England.

For non-residents, the NHS is free at the time of use, at General Practitioner (GP) Surgeries and emergency treatment not including admission to hospital. The NHS charges overseas visitors for NHS hospital care. Visitors from the European Economic Area (EEA) who become ill or have a medical emergency during a temporary stay in England will need a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by their home country. Failure to produce a valid EHIC, may be result in being charged for treatment.

People who live outside the EEA, including former UK residents, who require hospital treatment should ensure that they are covered by personal health insurance, unless an exemption applies to them. Those without insurance will be charged at 150% of the NHS national tariff for any care they receive.

Some hospital treatment is free for those who require it, regardless of whether they are resident in the UK. It includes:

  • Treatment as an outpatient in a hospital's accident and emergency department
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment
  • Treatment for certain infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, meningitis and pandemic influenza
  • Testing for the HIV virus
  • Family planning

Further information

The NHS Number

On first registering with a General Practitioner (GP), most practices will send a letter to the registered address containing the individuals NHS Number. This number will appear on most official documents from the NHS such as prescriptions, test results and hospital appointment letters. It also assists healthcare staff and service providers to match the patients details to their health records

  • Visit the NHS website for further information on the NHS number