This information is for overseas visitors coming to London North West Healthcare NHS Trust. It explains who has the right to have free hospital treatment under the National Health Service (NHS). It also tells you when you need to pay for hospital treatment or other care.
What is the NHS?
The NHS is a state-funded organisation which provides free hospital treatment to people who are legally living in the UK on a permanent basis.
Am I entitled to free hospital treatment?
Hospital appointments and treatment are free to people who are ordinarily resident (OR) in the United Kingdom (UK). People who are not lawfully resident in the UK are not automatically entitled to use the NHS free of charge. Ordinarily resident (OR) is therefore the main qualifying criterion, applicable regardless of nationality, ethnicity or whether the person holds a British passport, or has lived and paid taxes or National Insurance contributions in the UK in the past.
All NHS Trusts have a statutory obligation to establish whether people using their services are normally resident in the UK. The Trust’s statutory duty extends to charging those who are found not to be eligible for free NHS treatment, and who are not otherwise exempt or covered by a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement or European Economic Area arrangements. If the Trust is satisfied that the person is liable to pay, the regulations require the Trust to make and recover a charge for any treatment provided. It is not optional nor do Trusts have the authority to waive the charges.
I am just visiting the UK. Do I definitely have to pay for treatment if I become unwell?
No, you are entitled to free healthcare if:
- you normally live in a country with a bilateral healthcare agreement with the UK.
- you normally live in a country that is a member of the European Economic Area healthcare arrangement and you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This card covers emergency treatment only (not pre-planned). You need to bring this card with you to hospital and it must be in your name and within the expiry date.
- you are a refugee or an asylum seeker whose formal application to the UK Border Agency is being considered. A refugee is someone who has been granted asylum in this country. If you are a refugee or an asylum seeker you will still have to pay for all prescribed medications.
You may be entitled to free healthcare if you have come to study or take up employment in the UK. You need to show evidence that you are working for a UK-based employer, such as a payslip.
Your ‘right to work’ does not count as evidence in this case. If you are studying full-time you need to show evidence that you are attending a full-time course lasting not less than six months.
How can I prove that I am entitled to free hospital treatment?
You will need to bring evidence with you to show you are legally living within the UK or are a visitor in one of the categories above.
All patients admitted to our hospitals must provide correct information when registering their details, and must be prepared to provide evidence of living in the UK on a settled basis, whatever their nationality and living status.
To help us check if you are entitled to free NHS care, you are requested to bring a proof of identity and a proof of address with you to your appointment (see list of acceptable documents below). If the patient is aged 16 years or under, the parent must bring documents to show that they are lawfully resident in the UK.
If you are a maternity patient, you also need to complete a pregnancy referral form before your first appointment. You can fill this in online on our website or you can print it out to fill in. If you print it, please bring the completed form with you to your appointment.
What type of documents can I show?
The following documents can be used as proof of identity:
- Current signed passport
- Residence permit issued by UK Border Agency
- For patients who are claiming asylum, an IND and ARC
- EU or Swiss National Identity Photo-card
- Valid armed forces or police photographic Identity Card
- If entry to the UK is dependent on a spouse or a family member of an EU national, then please also sends their documents as above (plus a copy of any marriage certificates if sponsored by your spouse)
The following documents can be used as proof of address. They must contain your current address and be dated within the last six months:
- Recent original utility Bill (gas, electric, water, telephone) (mobile phone bill is not acceptable)
- Council tax bill (current year)
- Bank, building society or credit union statement or passbook
- Recent original mortgage Statement from recognised lender
- Current council or housing association rent book or tenancy agreement
- Notification letter from Department for Work and Pensions confirming your right to benefit or state pension
Please note that it is standard Trust procedure to request documentary evidence from all those attending an outpatient appointment
If I am not eligible for free treatment, what will I have to pay for?
You will be charged for any treatment given to you by any member of staff in any of our services, in hospital or in the community.
In some cases, you may be asked to pay a deposit or the full amount before your treatment.
There are exceptions under certain circumstances which we will discuss with you if they apply.
How will I know if I have to pay?
Our overseas visitors team can give you more information if you are not sure whether you are entitled to free hospital treatment.
The overseas visitors team can also advise you about which documents are OK to use when you are asked for evidence of entitlement.
Do you have further questions? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
NHS and Department of Health guidance
Patient Advisory Liaison Service
PALS can offer you on-the-spot advice and information when you have comments or concerns about our services or the care you have received. You can visit the PALS office between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Telephone / Email: 020 8869 5118 (For Northwick Park and Central Middlesex Hospitals) LNWH-tr.PALS@nhs.net
Telephone / Email 020 8967 5221 (Ealing Hospital and community) LNWH-tr.ehPALS@nhs.net NHS Choices
NHS Choices provides online information and guidance on all aspects of health and healthcare, to help you make decisions about your health.
Website: www.nhs.uk NHS 111
You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.