Are British expats entitled to NHS treatment?

If you’re a British expat living in Hong Kong permanently, you won’t generally be entitled to access NHS treatment. The NHS is a residence-based healthcare system, so British expats aren’t automatically entitled to medical treatment. It’s worth noting that you must have private medical insurance to cover you, as if you don’t you will face a charge at 150% of the NHS national tariff for any care you receive.

If you live or work in another European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland, you will be able to access the NHS as long as you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). And if you’re a UK State Pensioner living in the EEA and claiming a UK State Pension you remain eligible for NHS care, as your rights are unchanged.

Who is eligible?

If you are classed as ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, or more simply if the UK is your permanent home, you’ll be eligible for free hospital treatment through the NHS. Eligibility therefore doesn’t depend on whether you pay UK tax or National Insurance, your nationality or if you own a property. You also don’t have to be registered with a GP or even have an NHS number, although this certainly makes things easier. It’s important to remember that you may need to prove that you are living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis if and when you use the NHS.

How to prove your eligibility

If you are asked to prove your eligibility you’ll usually need to show documents that confirm both your identity and address. These might include your current passport, residence permit, UK driving licence or citizen card, along with a utility or Council Tax bill, bank statement or mortgage/rent statement, all of which must be less than six months old.

Emergency treatment

Any emergency treatment through the NHS is free at the point of use, regardless of your residence status. So, if you need to access NHS services including A&E, family planning or treatment for an infectious disease or a physical or mental condition caused by violence, you’ll be able to do so free of charge. The only caveat is that you must not have come to the UK to seek this treatment.

A permanent return to the UK

If you make a permanent return to live in the UK you’ll be immediately entitled to free NHS care and treatment. It’s important to register with your local GP surgery as soon as you return, and plan ahead to make sure you have the medication you need. You’ll also need to arrange for the transfer of your medical records from your previous home back to the UK.

If you are planning a return to the UK, our Guide will offer some useful information about what you might need to consider.

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