The NHS provides healthcare for people who are usually lawfully resident in the United Kingdom. People who do not normally live in this country, who are visiting the UK – to stay with family, on business, as a tourist, or if you are living here without proper permission – then you are likely to be charged for any treatment received. Not paying this charge may have an effect on any future immigration application you make and you risk being turned down.
There is a legal obligation on North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust to check if people are normally lawfully resident in the UK. Guidance on implementing the overseas visitor charging regulations - November 2021 states that all NHS trusts have a legal obligation to ensure that patients who are not lawfully ordinarily resident in the UK are identified and their liability for charges assessed.
If patients are not lawfully ordinarily resident in the UK then charges may be applicable for NHS services. When this is the case, the hospital must charge the person liable (usually the patient) for the costs of the services.
Some NHS services are free to everyone. These include:
- A&E services – not including emergency treatment if admitted to hospital
- family planning services – this does not include abortions or infertility treatment
- treatment for most infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- treatment required for a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence or sexual violence – this does not apply if you have come to England to seek this treatment
Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:
- testing for coronavirus (even if the test shows you do not have coronavirus)
- treatment for coronavirus – including for a related problem that affects some children called multisystem inflammatory syndrome
- vaccination against coronavirus, including boosters
Who is exempt from charges?
Some people who are not ordinary residents in the UK are still entitled to at least some hospital treatment free of charge. These include those working for UK-based employers and students on courses of at least six months in duration. UK state pensioners living overseas, and those visiting from countries that have a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK, are also entitled to free hospital treatment, but not pre-planned treatment or treatment that can await their return home.
Eligibility for treatment
If you have any queries regarding your eligibility to free treatment, you can contact the overseas visitor team on 01228 814489 during office hours. Alternatively, please email: OSV@ncic.nhs.uk. To receive free hospital treatment, you will need to provide evidence that you are legally living within the UK. All patients admitted to our hospitals may be asked to provide details. If you live in the UK on a settled basis then you may be asked to provide evidence of this.
How can I prove that I am entitled to free hospital treatment?
NHS hospitals have a duty to identify and charge overseas patients for hospital treatment they receive. Hospitals are required to check documentary evidence of entitlement to prove that you are ordinarily resident in the UK. If you can’t provide the documents you may have to pay a deposit equal to the estimated cost of your treatment before you receive an appointment or treatment. In line with the UK Charging Regulations, patients with outstanding debts are reported to the Home Office and payments are collected through the Debt Collector Agencies and it may affect their UK Visa status or entry to the UK.
Failure to pay
If you fail to pay for NHS treatment for which charges are appropriate, your future application to enter, or remain in the UK may be denied. Necessary (non-medical) personal information may be passed via the Department of Health to the Home Office for this purpose. It is the responsibility of the Overseas Visitor to pay for their medical treatment in the UK; also, the fact that a person was not informed that charges would apply does not alter the fact that, and under the Charging Regulations they are still liable for that charge.
If you need more information, please e-mail: OSV@ncic.nhs.uk or call 01228 814489.