[Skip to content]


Overseas patients

Preparing to administer an injection
Preparing to administer an injection

Hospital treatment is free to people who ordinarily live in the United Kingdom.

However, if you do not normally live in the UK you may be required to pay for treatment you receive, regardless of whether you are a British citizen or have lived or worked here in the past.

Revised regulations covering the identification and charging of overseas patients were introduced by the Department of Health to stop visitors and people who have had a request to asylum declined from receiving free treatment in hospitals.

It states patients who are not entitled to free care should pay for any treatment received. In order to identify possible overseas patients, anyone attending hospital for a new course of treatment will be asked to provide proof of residency and identity.

The revised regulations ensure that the identification of overseas patients is a fair process. These regulations place an obligation on NHS trusts to identify if people using NHS services are normally resident in the UK. If they are not, then the Trust is obliged to charge for any treatment provided. It is the traveller's responsibility to have adequate travel insurance to cover the duration of their stay in the UK. We are trying to protect the Trust's resources for people who are entitled to NHS care.

Some NHS services are provided free of charge, regardless of the status of the patient. These are:

  • Treatment in an A&E department, however, this exemption stops when a patient is admitted to a hospital ward or is given an outpatient appointment;
  • Family planning services;
  • Certain diseases where treatment is necessary to stop the condition spreading to the wider public;
  • Treatment given to people detained under the Mental Health Act 1983;
  • Treatment given for mental health problems as part of a court probation order. 

There are also specific circumstances when patients will be exempt from paying charges, for instance, people who are visiting from a country with which the UK holds a reciprocal agreement.

If you are visiting from a European Economic Area Country and Switzerland - you are required to produce your valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Provisional Replacement Certificate.

Key contacts

Joanne Small
Overseas visitors co-ordinator

Julie Burroughs
Overseas visitors assistant
Tel: 020 8296 2516
Email the department

More information

Information and guidance from the Department of Health on charges for NHS treatment, and exemptions, for people visiting the UK
Your feedback
Please let us know what you think about this page.