In the UK most healthcare is free to people who have the right to remain in the country and some others. If you are a visitor to the UK, or immigrating, you might not be sure what treatment you can get from the NHS at hospitals or through a doctor. HIV treatment is free to everyone, but other healthcare might cost.
People who have EEA or UK citizenship are entitled to free healthcare from the NHS. If you are a visitor then the rules about who is entitled to free healthcare are quite complicated.
Find out if you are entitled to free healthcare.
Certain healthcare services (like dentists and prescriptions) cost money even for people who are entitled to free healthcare in the UK – but they won’t have to pay if they are on a low income.
There’s some treatment that you can use for free, whatever your immigration status:
For other treatment the hospital might ask you for payment before they will treat you. If you cannot pay (or show how you will pay later) they might refuse you treatment.
Anyone in the NHS cannot refuse you treatment for any `life-threatening condition’ – which is something which might kill you if it is not treated. They might treat you but send you a bill afterwards though.
In the UK everyone has the right to free primary care from a GP doctor (this means a doctor in an NHS general practice surgery). You should be able to join any NHS medical practice unless:
Even if you can’t join the practice a GP doctor has a duty to give you free treatment for up to 14 days if you need medical care but are not a member of their practice.
If the doctor offers you private treatment you might have to pay for that but you do not have to accept private treatment. You have a right to free care from a doctor somewhere.
You can get help finding a GP or dentist from NHS Direct in England and Wales or from NHS 24 in Scotland.
If you have a bill that you can’t pay the hospital might choose to write it off. This means that they will agree that you don’t have to pay them back. They might try to get the money from you legally over time instead though. Unpaid bills might be counted against you if you are trying to stay in the country.
Some advice if you’re having trouble paying a hospital bill.
Get in touch with THT Direct and we’ll put you in touch with a local advice service, or you can look up your local CAB.
From 1st October 2012 all charges for HIV treatment for anyone who is resident in the UK, regardless of their residence status, will be abolished.
However non-HIV NHS treatment may still be chargeable, unless it can be directly linked to your HIV. Find out more.
Although it can be extremely alarming to receive a bill for thousands of pounds of hospital treatment, you may be able to negotiate a realistic solution with the hospital.
It's important that you continue to take your treatment and here are some things you can do in the meantime:
Mistakes are sometimes made – you may be entitled to free treatment, but are still sent a bill. Get in touch with THT Direct and we’ll put you in touch with a local advice service, or you can look up your local CAB.
Download Will I have to pay? for further details.
There are many different rules concerning entitlement to free NHS hospital treatment. Here are some of the main rules, however if they do not apply to you, it is advisable to contact either THT Direct or NHS Direct for further advice as there are many more.
A person who is not ordinarily resident in the UK is entitled to receive free NHS hospital treatment, including non-emergency treatment and treatment for pre-existing conditions, if s/he:-
From 1 October 2012 all charges for HIV treatment for anyone who is resident in the UK, regardless of their residence status, will be abolished.
However non-HIV NHS treatment may still be chargeable, unless it can be directly linked to your HIV. Find out more on the Department of Health website.
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Hi I am a Uk citizen wishing to go live in spain.
I would like to know how i go about getting my medication abroad if i do that.
I want a new start new life and wont be earning a fortune as only working 3 days and renting a place with a friend.
Is it illegal to keep popping home to the uk for my medication and how do I get it in spain if it is.
Thanks for any help david
This article was last reviewed on
by T. Kelaart
Date due for the next review: 21/3/2014
Content Author: E. Cotton
Current Owner: Advice & Advocacy
Seddon, Duran. Immigration, Nationality and Refugee Law Handbook, JCWI, 2006
UK Border Agency
Asylum seekers, Department of Health
Am I entitled to NHS treatment when I move to England?, NHS
HIV treatment for overseas visitors, Department of Health
Revised guidance on overseas visitors hospital charging regulations published
Changes to NHS charging rules for HIV from October 2012
Memory talks about living with HIV
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Copyright 2013 © Terrence Higgins Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (reg. no. 288527)
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