The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows access to state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries & Switzerland at a reduced fee or sometimes free of charge.
Residents in the United Kingdom should have this card and take it with them when travelling abroad. Remember to check your card hasn’t expired before you travel. Applying for the card is free and is valid for up to 5 years.
Note that following Brexit, from 2021, a new GHIC (UK Global Health Insurance Card) will be phased in which will eventually replace the existing EHIC cards.
All existing EHIC cards will remain valid until they expire and will continue to provide you with free emergency medical treatment whilst abroad.
Cover will be limited to travel within the EU and to countries where the UK has existing reciprocal healthcare agreements such as Australia, New Zealand, Gibraltar, the Falklands, Isle of Man, Jersey, Bosnia and Herzegovina plus a number of UK territories in the Caribbean such as the British Virgin Islands and St Helena.
Showing your EHIC/GHIC card entitles you to reduced cost or in many cases free treatment should it become necessary whilst travelling abroad. It does NOT allow you to go abroad specifically to receive medical care. However, kidney dialysis, maternity care, and symptoms of pre-existing or chronic conditions that arise while abroad are all covered by the EHIC/GHIC.
Your card will give you access to the same state healthcare as it would a resident of the country you are visiting. However, many countries expect the patient to pay towards their treatment, even with an EHIC, you might be expected to do the same. You may be able to seek reimbursement costs when you are back in the United Kingdom if you are not able to do so in the other country.
The EHIC/GHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property. For these reasons and others, it is important to have both an EHIC/GHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC/GHIC and many will waive the excess if you have one.
Please also note that if you have been prescribed medication by your doctor and it contains a 'controlled drug', you may need to take a doctors note with you when you travel, which will need to include:-
Further information can be found via the NHS at https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/can-i-take-my-medicine-abroad/
How To Apply For A New GHIC
Applying for the new GHIC is easy. Even if you don’t have any plans to travel in the near future, it is always a good idea to get one.
You may renew your GHIC up to 6 months before it expires, however, any time remaining on the card will not be added to the new card.
You can apply for a new GHIC directly via the following official NHS web page.