Can I still use the NHS
if I live abroad?

30 September 2021


There are still some circumstances in which you might be able to access healthcare which is paid for by the UK. This depends on whether you plan to

  • permanently live abroad or 
  • work outside the UK for a set period

This access is only available within the European Union and may also be dependent on whether you receive a UK pension or other UK benefits. You can use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued in the UK or UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to access healthcare for temporary stays up to 90 days.

Once you're registered to live and work in an EU country, you should not use your EHIC or GHIC to get healthcare in that country, but you may be able to receive an EHIC card from your destination country for further travel.

If you live in an EU country, you may also be eligible to apply for an S1 form once you begin to draw a UK State Pension.

You will not be covered for healthcare paid for by the UK if you're going to live permanently outside the EU.

An S1 form is a certificate of entitlement that shows your state healthcare is paid for by the UK if you live in an EU country. 

If you receive a UK State Pension and a pension from the country you have moved to, you cannot get an S1 form. This is because the country you live in is responsible for your healthcare. If you receive your UK State Pension as well as a pension from an EU member state, but are now living in a different EU state, the country you paid contributions toward your pension for the longest period becomes responsible for your healthcare.

Depending on which country you are living in you may have suitable alternative access to local healthcare  but this may not be at the same level as the services provided by the NHS and they could come at a cost. For these reasons many UK expats living abroad consider international health insurance essential.

International health insurance works much like health insurance at home. With it you are covered for emergency treatment, diagnosis and post-treatment care. Having an international health insurance plan in place can help you to avoid healthcare expenses as many common illnesses are covered. 

International health insurance benefits vary by plan, but often include:

  • Hospital stay
  • Routine check-ups
  • Multi-country health cover for you and your family
  • Cover for pre-existing conditions
  • Cover for chronic conditions
  • Choice of medical providers

You might plan to rely on local healthcare when you are abroad to keep costs down, but should you fall ill, you may find that the local healthcare options do not meet your needs or the standards you are used to with the NHS.


Depending on where you are moving and your individual circumstances, you may not be entitled to free or subsidised healthcare. Without an expatriate health plan, you may incur expensive medical costs. 


Before venturing to another country on expat assignment, it is important to weigh your options and ensure that you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Having the correct cover in place, will provide peace of mind as you settle into your new home.


Get a quote for international health insurance with Allianz Care today or speak to our specialist team who can give you the best advice on the level of cover you need in your destination country.