FREE NHS TREATMENT: As a rule, there are two determining factors. It would depend most on the purpose and the length of your residence in the United Kingdom.
Foreign nationals may get charged for some NHS services. One of the most common is dental treatment.
Even so, some people from abroad can get financial help with these particular charges.
There is no specific qualifying period for foreign nationals to get free NHS treatment. Thus, those with entitlement will get it without delay.
Note: Receiving free NHS treatment (or getting help with NHS charges for foreign nationals) does not affect any immigration status.
You may need to pay for medical treatments if you do not meet the residence conditions. This does not count as discriminatory behaviour in the UK. But, you must receive clear information about NHS charges in a way that you understand.
There are several ways to achieve this. They can give the information in a foreign language or they can use an interpreter. Not receiving clear information could breach your discrimination rights in the United Kingdom. In this case, you can make an official complaint.
Paying for NHS Hospital Treatment
The hospital must establish whether you need to pay for your treatment. As a rule, they will ask you to pay the full cost in advance.
Note: Exceptions apply if emergency treatment is immediately required.
What if you are unable to pay for your treatment in advance? In this case, the hospital can request a written undertaking to pay (e.g. a guarantor).
What if foreign nationals are unable to provide proof that they can afford to pay the NHS bill?
If this happens the hospital treatment can get refused. In some cases, you might get an opportunity to receive private treatment instead.
Some people from abroad are not entitled to receive free NHS hospital treatment. Even so, the hospital will not refuse certain medical treatment for them. As a rule, it must be emergency care that stabilises a life-threatening condition to qualify.
The medical facility will provide treatment to deal with the emergency. But, they will then expect the patient to return home for the completion, once the emergency has ended.
Treatment may need to start immediately – even if there is no real emergency. In this case, you can get asked to provide an undertaking to pay the charges.
Note: It is vital and important for you to determine the likely cost in these medical situations.
Overseas patients have the opportunity to refuse treatment in non-urgent cases. The same applies if they cannot afford it. Some medical treatments may get delayed until the money can get raised. If not, the treatment will get refused.
GP and Dentist NHS Patients
The GP (general practitioner) or dentist can decide whether to accept you into their list of NHS patients. But, there are certain exceptions to these rules. Requiring emergency treatment is one of the most common.
Patients do not need to be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the United Kingdom to have NHS eligibility for primary medical care. NHS residence conditions only apply to hospital secondary care.
GP practices have some flexibility in deciding whether to accept foreign nationals as registered patients. They can accept those who are visiting the United Kingdom for less than 3 months as a temporary resident. But, you may have to pay a fee for certain services. Thus, foreigner residency status is not the only determining factor.
People who visit the UK from the EEA should have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Present this card any time you attend a GP practice. That allows them to recover the costs of treatment from your home country.
Contact NHS England if you have difficulty locating a GP or dentist who will register you. Further help is also available from the NHS 111 service.
Note: Dial 999 for emergency medical attention or go to your local accident and emergency department.
Charges for NHS Patients
What happens if you get accepted onto a GP or a dentist list of NHS patients? In some cases, you will need to pay charges for certain things. These may include prescription charges and the cost of dental treatment.
New NHS Charges Rules for Foreign Nationals
October 2017 sees new rules come into force. It allows upfront charges for foreign users of the National Health Service. Medical staff must establish whether migrants and visitors qualify for state funded healthcare. The test must take place ‘before’ providing the treatment.
The system aims to target ‘health tourism’ in the United Kingdom. Those who are not eligible must pay an upfront charge. This is currently set around 150% of the cost for healthcare providers.