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Going abroad for medical treatment

If you're thinking about having medical treatment in another European country, it's important to understand how it works and the risks involved. If you do not follow the correct procedures, you may end up being responsible for the full cost of treatment. For example, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not cover going abroad for medical treatment. The EHIC is for emergency treatment that becomes necessary while you are abroad. Find out more aout what the EHIC covers.   


As an NHS patient, you have the right to receive treatment anywhere in the European Economic Area (EEA). However, conditions may apply in some cases. Read about entitlements to treatment abroad. There are two ways to accessNHS-fundedhealthcare in other EEA countries:


  • The S2 route (or E112)
    This is a direct arrangement between the NHS and the state healthcare provider in the country of your choice. Prior approval is required. Click here for further information
  • The  EU Directive on cross-border healthcare (or Article 56)
    Generally, you will have to pay the costs of treatment abroad and then claim reimbursement from the NHS when you return. Depending on the treatment, it may be necessary for you to obtain authorisation from NHS England before receiving treatment. Find out what types of services require prior authorisation (PDF, 72kb).  Click here for further information


Each option works in a different way. Compare application routes here.


Where to start

If you are planning to have treatment abroad it's important to discuss your plans with your doctor before making any final decisions about travel or medical arrangements. You will need to apply for funding prior to treatment if:


If you are still not sure that prior authorisation is required, contact NHS England by emailing or call 0113 824 9653. 


Although applying for funding prior to treatment is not mandatory for other requests, we do recommend that you contact NHS England or apply for funding before treatment in all cases. This will enable NHS England to confirm your eligibility and the funding or reimbursement process.  You will need to be aware of how your aftercare will be provided when you return home and understand the conditions under which you will be treated abroad. 


You should also ensure that you have adequate insurance. Most travel insurance policies will not cover you for planned treatment abroad, so you may need specialist cover.


Do your research

Going for medical treatment abroad isn't easy and your GPorNHS England can only do so much to help you. You will have to make the arrangements yourself, including findingahealthcare provider and making all the travel arrangements.Therefore, it's important to do some research and gather enough information to make an informed choice. You should consider:

  • any language barriers
  • whether you know enough about the people who will treat you and the facilities available
  • communication between medical staff abroad and in the UK, such as exchanging medical records and arranging aftercare back home
  • how to make a complaint if things go wrong (the NHS is not liable for negligence or failure of treatment)


Is treatment abroad the right thing for you?

Look at this checklist to help you decide