UK nationals moving abroad after 1.1.21 lose entitlement to free NHS healthcare for UK visits

The UK Government has issued a statement today that British nationals who move abroad on a permanent basis will now lose their entitlement to free NHS healthcare on visits to the UK. Since the NHS is a state healthcare system providing entitlement through residence in the UK, those British nationals who move abroad to live now that the Transition Period is over will not be eligible for free treatment in the NHS when they return on a temporary basis to the UK. The British Government says:

UK nationals living and working in EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland on or before 31 December 2020 and their family members may be eligible to use NHS services without charge. You may be asked to provide evidence of your residency. Please check with the authorities in the member state in which you reside for further information.

If you are a UK national and move to the EU, you should not expect to be able to use NHS services for free when visiting the UK unless you have an EHICPRC or S2 to show your healthcare costs are funded by the EU country in which you now live, or another exemption applies.

You should take out appropriate travel insurance when visiting the UK, as you would when visiting any other country. Any treatment you may have to pay for will be charged at 150% of the national NHS rate.

Some former UK residents do not have to pay for NHS treatment when visiting England. This includes UK war pensioners, UK government employees, and UK nationals living in the EU on or before 31 December 2020.

You should check before travelling to the UK whether you qualify for an exemption from charging or will be required to pay for your treatment.

If you return to the UK permanently and you are ordinarily resident, you will be able to access NHS care without charge.

There is more information from GovUK HERE about healthcare for anyone entering the UK as a visitor.


  1. I agree with you Philip. Met someone the other day who was bemoaning the fact that they couldn’t get back to the UK “for their vaccine”??? I mean…what?? Fortunately, one or two others called them out on that statement. Saved me the bother. Selfish people who genuinely believe they will never be caught using their children’s addresses in the UK to stay on the books of their former GP in the UK.

  2. It beggars belief that people think they are entitled to healthcare in both the UK and Spain/Tenerife. The contributions that a retired person has paid in the UK are what funds the reciprocal healthcare if they move abroad, but to then expect it both ways is that old ‘cake and eating it’ syndrome. Janet rightly points out that Brexit has nothing to do with this fundamentally, but unfortunately too many people have tried to have one foot in each country.
    I for one am pleased this is being curtailed – for whatever reason.

  3. At least all this will finally ensure that people decide which country they wish to officially reside in. Having one foot abroad and one in the UK has gone on for so long that some people still do not get it, or even think it is real.
    Make your mind up folks!

  4. Well said Janet. John’s comment, and many other comments elswhere, simply illustrates just how many people were/are ignorant (or openly chose to be) of the rules/laws that have always been in place both here and in the UK.

  5. Despite paying UK taxes and NI contributions for 46 years if I move to Tenerife now that I’ve retired I will no longer be able to access free NHS treatement. Brexit, the plan that just keeps on taking away.

    1. Author

      I am no fan of Brexit but people haven’t ever been able just to use the NHS once they move abroad anyway! This is because entitlement to use the NHS is provided by residence in the UK, and if someone registers as resident in Spain they’re not resident in the UK, and it’s always been like that. In any case, it’s a pre-requisite to registering as a resident here to have state or private medical cover, and was before Brexit.

      So the only issue really, and the only thing this post is about, is when someone living here visits the UK, and the official advice regardless of any entitlement is that travellers should take out insurance. Some would think it common sense anyway not to leave oneself at the mercy of a crowdfunding exercise for others to pay for something we couldn’t be bothered to pay for ourselves …

  6. Good morning May I ask Which travel insurance they use when in Uk?

    1. Author

      Who do you mean by “they”? Simple fact is that any insurance policy needs to be checked in advance to ensure that it covers the intended elements of the visit, and that it is appropriate for someone in Spain travelling to the UK. I would imagine that this would require a policy to be taken out here in Spain … there will be several options as there would be anywhere.

      And I’ll just take this opportunity to say that no further insurance comments will be approved … this is not a site to assist or advise about travel, and this post is to publicise a GovUK announcement that British nationals moving to Spain won’t be entitled to free NHS treatment on return visits whereas those who were legally resident in Spain prior to 31.12.20 will. The simple fact is that everyone is always told that they should have travel insurance, regardless of any EHIC that might have been available or any crowdfunding possibilities that might exist.

  7. At last thank you brexit

  8. For my own protection and peace of mind I have always had comprehensive travel health insurance every time when visiting the UK. It’s so affordable. A no brainer for me.

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