Getting access to healthcare in Europe

Falling ill on holiday is never part of the plan, but if you should need medical attention aboard it’s important to know what to do.  

If you’re planning a holiday to Europe, here’s how to ensure you have access to health services when you need them most.

Get a European Health Insurance Card

Before you go abroad, take some time to apply for or renew your European Health Insurance Card.

This universal health card gives you the right to access state healthcare for free or at a reduced cost in EEA countries and Switzerland while there on a temporary stay. The card will cover any immediate, emergency or necessary state-funded treatment on holiday until you return home.

With the health card you’re also covered for the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and maternity care – as long as the reason you’re abroad isn’t specifically to seek treatment.

The card is free and easy to apply for. You can fill out the form online from the EHIC website. Beware of common scams; many people are tricked into paying a fee from a third-party service who will fill in the form on your behalf. This isn’t necessary – you can apply for free directly from the link above.

To get one, you need to be an ordinary resident of the UK and a British, EU, EEA or Swiss national to be eligible. You’ll need to register for the website and then fill in an application form by sharing details like your name, address, date of birth and national insurance number. Once the form has been submitted, your card should arrive in the mail within seven days.

Invest in travel insurance

Although a European Health Insurance Card entitles you to state-funded healthcare while abroad in the EU, it’s not an alternative to travel insurance – you should still make sure you have additional cover.

For example, your health card will not cover the cost of repatriation to the UK after an accident or mountain rescue if you’re injured on a ski holiday. Travel insurance also ensures you’ll have access to private health care if you need it or treatments and medicines that aren’t covered on the health card.

If you’re in a serious accident or need emergency care, without travel insurance your medical bills could be very high and without cover there could be a delay in treatment.



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