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Patients Travelling Abroad - FAQs

Provision of medical care

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

By law, the NHS ceases to have responsibility for the medical care of patients when they leave the UK.

As part of Brexit the UK and the EU agreed that the EHIC cards can still be used until their expiry dates.

It is anticipated that the government will issue a new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which will replace the EHIC for the majority of UK citizens.

Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

  • The GHIC is free of charge
  • The GHIC will not be valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.
  • The government website says that the GHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance  and everyone is advised to purchase travel insurance which includes health cover
  • GHIC and the EHIC do not cover any private medical healthcare such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK
  • Every family member requires a GHIC. You can make an application for yourself and on behalf of your partner and any dependent children under the age of 16.
  • Under the age of 16, a parent or guardian will need to apply.
  • Boarding school teaching staff can apply on behalf of any children in their care
  • If someone is planning to study in an EU country, they need to apply for a GHIC that’s time limited to the length of their course. You cannot apply for this online. They also need a letter from their university or college


What the GHIC covers

“You can use a GHIC to get "necessary healthcare" from state services when visiting an EU country.

Necessary healthcare means healthcare which becomes medically necessary during your stay, and you cannot reasonably wait until you’re back in the UK to get it.

This includes things like:

Healthcare in non-EU countries

The UK has reciprocal health deals with for example Australia and New Zealand, under which visitors can receive urgent treatment at a reduced cost or for free but do not cover pre-existing conditions. Everyone is advised to check their travel policies depending on their travel destination.


Travel advice during Covid

  • The web site provides up to date travel advice including,
  • Foreign travel advice for each country, people can sign up for email alerts
  • Travel health advice for travellers NaTHNaC -
  • Current Red list travel ban countries


Covid Pass

Patients are advised to check the website for the most up to date details on the Covid Pass. It is also advised to check other travel vaccinations and requirements for the country you are intending to travel to. Each country will have its own criteria. See Travel Abroad.

Prescriptions for patients travelling out of the country

Patients should be advised to check specific entitlements prior to travel.

As GPs you do need to be aware of your responsibilities in signing FP10's for patients' travelling abroad, i.e., the resultant monitoring and treatment of the patient's condition and any adverse effects of doing so.

You may be committing fraud in prescribing to patients that are leaving the UK - please note this information carefully.

Travelling with Prescribed & Controlled Drugs

The rules concerning travellers who are carrying prescribed drugs controlled under Schedules 1, 2, 3 and 4 Part 1 of The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 changed. 

Historically until December 2007, those travelling for a period of up to 28 days were automatically covered under the provisions of a Home Office general, or blanket, licence - irrespective of the amount of drug they had been prescribed to cover such a period.

For periods longer than 28 days the patient needed to apply for and be in possession of an individual licence.

As from January 2008 the validity of this Home Office general licence was extended to a period of up to three months.

Any person whose absence from the UK is likely to be longer than three months will, in normal circumstances, be expected to make arrangements to have their medication prescribed by a practitioner in the country they are visiting.

Travellers in possession of prescribed controlled drugs are strongly advised to carry a letter of confirmation from their doctor or drug worker. The letter should include:

Further information is available on

GOV.UK Controlled drugs list

Advice for patients whilst abroad

Patients travelling abroad may contact their practice for a variety of reasons. This may include:

Any requests for information from the medical records should be handled in accordance with GDPR.

If a patient cannot consent, then the GP may have to decide if they feel that the transfer of information is in the persons best interest. BMA

There is no reason why a practice cannot deal with administrative requests such as repeat prescription ordering or appointment booking pending the patients return home.

Where a patient is requesting medical advice while abroad it is very important that clinicians are aware of the risks associated with giving such advice. MDU GMC

As well as the difficulties of adequately assessing the patient to make a proper diagnosis, it is likely that the clinician would not be covered in terms of medical indemnity if actions were taken against them in another country where harm had arisen because of their provision of advice. Please check with your indemnifiers for further clarification. BMA

Because of this, we would advise clinicians not to offer any medical advice to a patient who is overseas. They should instead be encouraged to seek local medical advice in the country in which they are travelling.

Changes to funding routes for planned treatment abroad

The ways in which patients can access planned treatment abroad have changed following the UK leaving the EU on 31 December 2020. Pre-authorised planned treatment at state-run facilities continues to operate under the S2 funding route but the EU directive rote is no longer available for patients starting treatment after 31 December 2020.

Practitioners should direct patients considering receiving planned treatment abroad to the official S2 funding route. This will not require patients to pay their treatment costs up-front. Patients should be wary of using third party services which organise planned treatment abroad on their behalf, as these services often rely on the EU directive route and may not be able to refund the treatment costs. There have been several cases of patients being out of pocket due to using these services. Information on the EU directive is available here.

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Updated on Friday, 9 July 2021 15766 views