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Will I be Entitled to NHS Treatment?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 14 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
Will I Be Entitled To Nhs Treatment?


I would like to know more about giving birth in UK. I am not a British Citizen and do not live in the UK however I am married to a British citizen.

I am planning to come to UK prior to my delivery but I would like to know if I will be entitled to receive NHS treatment or will I have to pay for private care?

(Mrs Shahira Hashem, 6 November 2008)


Eligibility for Free NHS Treatment

Entitlement to free NHS treatment in the UK is based on the country of residence and not citizenship. The general rule is that all UK residents are entitled to free treatment. It is up to the hospital administering the treatment to ensure that the patient is eligible for free healthcare.

The test to be applied for eligibility is whether the individual seeking treatment is ordinarily resident in the UK – in other words that they are in the UK legally and are settled there. If the test is satisfied there is no minimum qualifying period of residence before an individual becomes eligible for free treatment.

Categories of Treatment Which are Free to Everyone

Some types of treatment are available to everyone for free, even if they would not ordinarily be eligible for free NHS healthcare. These include:
  • Treatment given in a hospital accident and emergency department or similar treatment administered by an NHS walk-in centre;
  • Family planning services;
  • Compulsory treatment for a psychiatric disorder.
  • Treatment for some contagious diseases – but different rules apply to AIDS/HIV;
Although family planning services are included in this list maternity services are not.

Eligibility for NHS Treatment for Overseas Residents

Some overseas residents may still be entitled to free NHS treatment.

Citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area or Switzerland - or of countries who have a reciprocal agreement with the UK regarding healthcare - may be entitled to free NHS treatment even if they are not resident in the UK. However, eligibility under this category will not generally apply if the overseas resident came to the UK knowing that they needed medical care. The exception is if they were specifically referred to the UK for treatment under a reciprocal agreement.

You say that you do not live in the UK but are coming to the country prior to the birth. If it is your intention to remain in the UK as a resident after the birth and have permission to do so, either in your own right or as a result of your husband’s citizenship, you are likely to be entitled to free NHS treatment.

If your intention is to come to the UK solely to give birth and then return to your country of residence you are unlikely to be entitled to free NHS treatment. You may still be treated in an NHS hospital - but as a private patient. If you presented at an NHS hospital in labour, you would almost certainly receive treatment without having to pay for it in advance. However, if you were deemed ineligible for free treatment the hospital would be obliged to pursue you for payment afterwards.

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@Roger, No your friend would not be entitled to use the NHS free if he is not a U.K.resident regardless of him having a British Passport.
Nic - 14-Oct-19 @ 12:37 PM
Hi I have a friend that was born in the UK but now live in Tbilisi Georgia and still has a British passport and comes here every year for a few weeks. Is he still entitled to free NHS prescription drugs as he is over 60 years old.
Roger - 14-Oct-19 @ 7:00 AM
Guidance on implementing the overseas visitor charging regulations January 2019 states: 5.23 Where two people are seeking assisted conception services with NHS funding, and one of the two people is covered by health surcharge arrangements and the other is ordinarily resident in the UK and therefore not subject to charge, the services required by the health surcharge payer will be chargeable. Any services required by the ordinarily resident person will continue to be freely available, subject to the established local or national commissioning arrangement. What happens when a female is a IHS payee and husband is a British Citizen? Will the treatment be denied ? Treatment would be given which would be partial NHS funded?
Fuschia - 10-Sep-19 @ 9:49 PM
Our Mum was English and Father U.S. My brother has duel citizenship and resides in the USA. He has had a stroke having rehab and needs kidney dialysis daily. He wants to be near his UK family. Will he be entitled to treatment on the NHS? Thank you
Debs - 9-Sep-19 @ 4:55 PM
Hi, My girlfriends mum is a british citizen who has lived in south africa, Johannesburg for the last 16 years, she has a british passport, she currently has full kidney failure in one of her kidneya in which she now has a stoma bag and the surgery for the removal of the kidney has been cancelled 3 times in the last 6month, as it is reverse racism over there and she is white she is at the bottom of any lists and her kidney is dead, she currently has an infection due to this too, So, I'm wondering, as she is a british citizenwith a british passport, would she be able to come back to the UK for the treatment she needs as it is potentially life saving Any Information of this would be great
Bec - 14-Aug-19 @ 1:06 PM
Hey, my mother in law is a british citizen, she lives in Johannesburg in South africa and has lived there for the last 16years, she has a british passport, She is needing medical care in which she isn't receiving fully in Johannesburg, she has full kidney failure and now has a stoma bag, Her treatment out there has been cancelled 3 times for the removal of the dead kidney, but as it is reverse racism out there and the fact she is white she's at the way bottom of the list for treatment and currently has a ongoing infection due to the kidney I am wondering, as she is a british citizen and has a british passport, would she be able to come back to the UK after 16 years of residency in South Africa, for potentially life saving treatment on the NHS, Any information on this would be brilliant
Becky - 14-Aug-19 @ 1:02 PM
@Candie - You should have access to free services under the NHS if you are legally resident in the UK regardless of your nationality.
TJ. - 9-Jul-19 @ 5:05 PM
Hi, my partner is British and accessed NHS for free. I'm pregnant and I'm not British, can i access the maternity care for free under NHS? Will I be extended NHS service due to my partners status
Candie - 7-Jul-19 @ 12:42 PM
hello.i hope to be returning to uk in dec.married with a 9 y o son.what am i allowed on nhs
watt - 29-Jun-19 @ 2:36 AM
Hi I’m doing voluntary missionary work in Africa. Recently I have been back home to the U.K. each year, staying several months on occasion. How do I qualify for free nhs secondary care? Thanks
Kesh - 27-Jun-19 @ 9:31 AM
Hi there, I am a British citizen living in New Zealand and my wife has dual nationality NZ and British We have a son who was born in New Zealand and only has an NZ passport. We are coming to the UK for a long holiday to visit family. He recently fractured his leg (in New Zealand) and will be in a cast for 3 weeks. If we traveled to the UK within that time and he needed to have his cast removed during our stay in the UK would he be able to receive treatment on the NHS? If not would it cost a huge amount to have it done privately? Many thanks.
Sallyp - 9-May-19 @ 8:14 AM
Hi, Can I receive NHS for IVF treatment if my husband has a spousal Visa and I'm a British citizen( born and grew up in the UK)? Thanks
Ama - 8-May-19 @ 4:42 PM
@Ron - She can simply pop over to the nearest GP and they will register her for NHS and thereafter she will obtain an NHS number. I'm not quite sure what you mean by health card
TJ. - 3-May-19 @ 1:59 PM
Hi, I am a British citizen as is my daughter. My daughter moved with her mother (British Citizen) to the USA when she was 16. She had three children with her American husband. The youngest child is now 18 and has both american and british passports and is now living with me and my 2nd wife in England prior to her starting university in York later this year. My question is how do I get her registered with the NHS and will she be provided with a health card? Kind regard Ron
Ron - 29-Apr-19 @ 1:48 PM
Our daughter is a British citizen married 6 years ago to an american they now have a young baby they live in America. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer last June and has been being treated in the USA. He is having surgery next month.Following post operative care they are considering the possibility of moving to the UK later this year to be closer to family. If they were to move to the UK as residents would her husband be eligible for any ongoing care/treatments on the NHS?
CJS - 26-Apr-19 @ 9:07 PM
Are children from Ireland over on holiday entitled to free NHS sight tests and help towards the glasses
jg - 17-Apr-19 @ 7:36 PM
Hi I have lived in the UK since I was born. I recently was diagnosed with a condition that needs therapy. I was told 4several weeks ago (Feb 19)that my appointment could take between 6 to 12 weeks to come through.At the end of April I hope to move to a EU country and become a resident there. As I have started treatment in the UK, can this continue?
J - 13-Apr-19 @ 12:43 PM
I am British but have been overseas for many years. Whilst overseas in 2016 I married a German woman. We both intend to live in UK starting June 2019 and I want to know if she will be eligible for free NHS treatment as my spouse or if we will have to go through some process for her to obtain a spouse visa.
colinm - 3-Apr-19 @ 5:32 AM
@Savvy - If you come to the UK as a visitor you will not be able to change to a spouse family visa without leaving the UK first.
TJ. - 27-Feb-19 @ 9:00 AM
I would like to join my husband who is a citizen of Britain. I want to also give birth to our baby while in England, so my child and husband will both be British citizens. I intend to stay in the country after. I am a US citizen and I want to come as a visitor into the country as a visitor. From what I understand, being a US citizen I can stay up to 6 months without applying for a visitors visa. I want to apply for a family visa while in the country within those 6 months. Is this aloud or will I be turned away?
Savvy - 26-Feb-19 @ 8:37 PM
Hi, I live in the UK on Spouse Visa, my husband is a British citizen. Am I entitled to NHS funded IVF service? Thank you.
GJ - 15-Feb-19 @ 7:59 PM
@Rana - An individual who holds ILE has the same entitlements as one with ILR
TJ. - 15-Feb-19 @ 5:44 AM
@TJ Thank you so much for replying. But in my comment I explained that I don’t have ILR. I only have indefinite leave to ENTER. Will I still be entitled to free IVF treatment? :((
Rana - 14-Feb-19 @ 10:04 AM
@Rana - If you have been granted ILR then you are entitled to IVF on the NHS provided you meet the other NHS requirements
TJ. - 13-Feb-19 @ 9:07 AM
Hi, I was granted a Indefinite Leave to Enter spouse visa in Nov. 2016. Am I eligible for free NHS IVF treatment. My husband is a British citizen. Our IVF Referal has been approved but the NHS funding status is still pending. I would really appreciate it if you can answer me we’re going through a very stressful time!! Thank you!
Rana - 12-Feb-19 @ 5:33 PM
@Errimou - Your daughter simply has to go the GP in her area of residence and request for an NHS number and they will handle the rest.
TJ. - 30-Jan-19 @ 11:30 AM
I am UK citizen married in an eu country.My daughter has dual uk&eu citizenship.She has been studying in the UK as an eu student for 3 years and working part time in the UK at the same time. Her studies are finishing this summer and she would like to settle permanently in the UK now. What does she need to do? Particularly regarding NHS healthcare (up till now she has had an EHIC). How does she obtain an NHS number as a permanent UK resident? And what else does she need to do in general?
Errimou - 30-Jan-19 @ 4:30 AM
Hi there. My partner was diagnosed with an advanced cancer. I'm British and he is South African. We have just got married and I have been working and with him in South Africa for 18 months. I've been wanting to move back to the UK and finally found a job. He is not keen as such but will obvs come with me. He has yet to start treatment as he has had various issues around treatment. Should we definitely move would he be entitled to free treatment? The new treatment is quite costly but available in the UK.
Zeke - 20-Jan-19 @ 6:45 PM
Hello, I would like to know please wether the answer you gave above about giving birth in the uk is still relevant in 2018. I am in the same situation, married to British citizen we live abroad but we own a residence in the UK. I am pregnant and we are planning for me to deliver in the uk as our insurance in our country of residence doesn’t cover pregnancy and delivery. Am I entitled to free nhs treatment in this case? I am holder of spouse visa. Thank you in advance
Sofia - 8-Nov-18 @ 4:31 AM
My husband has a Belgium passport, I have a British. Will he be able to use the NHS when we move to the UK?
Olli - 5-Nov-18 @ 2:15 PM
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