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Information for people seeking free NHS hospital treatment

Ordinarily Resident

To be 'ordinarily resident' in the UK means that you are living lawfully in the United Kingdom voluntarily and for settled purposes as part of the regular order of your life for the time being, with an identifiable purpose for your residence here that has sufficient degree to be properly described as “settled”.

The Overseas Visitors Hospital Charging Regulations 2020 (as amended), place a legal obligation on NHS Trusts in  England to establish whether a person is an Overseas Visitor to whom charges apply or whether they are exempt by virtue of the charging regulations for NHS services provided.

People who do not normally live in this country are not automatically entitled to use the NHS free of charge – regardless of their nationality, or whether they hold a British passport, or have lived and paid national insurance contributions in this country in the past. This includes British Citizens who are no longer resident in the UK.

The question of whether a person is an Overseas Visitor or is exempt by virtue of the charging regulations will be established by the Overseas Visitors Department.  We will request examples of evidence that will be required to support the Overseas Visitors status of the patient, with the onus being on the patient to provide whatever evidence he or she thinks is appropriate to support the claim.

Some NHS services are free to everyone regardless of the status of the patient:

  • Accident & Emergency treatment is free to all until the patient is admitted as an inpatient or given an outpatient appointment.
  • Family Planning Services are free to all (this does not include termination of pregnancy).
  • Certain infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases and treatment of HIV is free to all.
  • Treatment given to people detained under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Visitors who are resident in another EEA state and hold a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) are entitled to receive all necessary and urgent treatment free of charge, the need of which arises whilst visiting the UK. If EEA visitors do not have a valid EHIC or PRC and no other exemptions apply, then they will be liable for any NHS hospital treatment accessed.

The Home Office has amended the immigration rules to allow an unpaid debt of £500 or more by a person subject to immigration control, to be reason to refuse a new visa or extension to stay. This includes both EEA and non EEA nationals.

Visitors who have applied for a visa to enter the UK and have paid the Health Surcharge will be required to provide a copy of their biometrics card issued to them from the Home Office.

The Overseas Visitors Department may also contact the Home Office to validate a visitor’s status in the UK. For more information please download the “Information sharing with the Home Office: Guidance for overseas patients” leaflet.

No power has been given, in the Charging Regulations or otherwise, for any person, including the Trust Chief Executive or Government Minister to waive charges that are due.