Mon | Oct 24, 2016

UK medical policy for visitors

Published:Tuesday | November 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mr Bassie,

I will be travelling to England in the near future and I was told that the United Kingdom has recently changed the policy concerning receiving medical treatment while being over there. Could you explain the policy to me, please?

Thank you.

- GW

Dear GW

I am assuming that you will be visiting, as opposed to settling, in the United Kingdom and if that is the case then you should be aware that overseas visitors to the United Kingdom will usually have to pay for National Health Service (NHS) treatment.

You should be aware that NHS hospital treatment is only free to people who are currently living on a lawful and properly settled basis, that is, he or she is considered to be an 'ordinary resident' in the United Kingdom or he or she is exempt from such charges under the law. If a person does not normally live there and he or she does not meet one of the categories of exemption then that person will have to pay for the hospital treatment that has been received. This will be the case irrespective of whether that person is a British citizen or has lived or worked there in the past or has been issued with an HC2 certificate. An HC2 certificate is a document that is given for free NHS dental treatment or help with some health costs, when your treatment starts. To be eligible, you must be over 18 years of age.


The law states that the decision as to who should pay must be established by the hospital providing NHS treatment, that is, as to whether the patient is entitled to being treated without cost. The hospital will ask the person to provide evidence to confirm his or her eligibility. If the hospital establishes that the person is entitled then he or she may receive free NHS treatment. However, that person will still have to pay for statutory NHS charges such as prescription charges unless he or she is separately exempt from those.

If the hospital decides that the person is not entitled to free NHS treatment then that person will have to pay the full cost of all the treatment received, and this includes emergency treatment, given by staff at the hospital or by staff employed by the hospital. This will also include the full cost of any prescribed medication, even if that person is in possession of an HC2 exemption certificate. Please be aware that these charges cannot be set aside; overseas visitors will be charged for other hospital treatment unless they themselves are exempt.

I hope this helps.

Good luck!

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a Justice of the Peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Associa-tion (UK). Email: