Health policy decisions in the United Kingdom are made at the level of individual nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Despite the diversity in the way the systems are organized, some aspects of the regulatory framework continue to operate on a United Kingdom-wide basis in line with European standards.
The National Health Service (NHS) is the responsible organization for public healthcare. Each of the four nations have their own separate NHS that provide health services. Although the volume of services provided in the private sector remains small relative to service provision by NHS providers, it is growing.
Until the end of the Brexit transition period (until the end of 2020), you can receive medically necessary treatment while temporarily residing in the UK by presenting your passport or European Health Insurance Card. Medically necessary treatment refers to treatment that cannot wait for your return home. You may need such treatment in case of acute illness or accident. You can also receive treatment related to pregnancy and childbirth or to a chronic illness. The need for treatment must emerge during the course of your stay.
With a European Health Insurance card, you will receive treatment on the same terms and at the same price as the locals. If you were required to pay all the costs of treatment yourself, you might be able to apply for reimbursement from Kela retrospectively.
By presenting your European Health Insurance Card or passport, you can obtain treatment in treatment facilities of the NHS. Note, that different rules may apply depending on which part of the country you are visiting. More information is available on the NHS website, where you can find the contact information, by region, of NHS-contracted doctors, dentists and hospitals.
Information about using health services in non-emergency cases is available by calling the United Kingdom´s National Health Service (NHS) service number 111.
Be aware that you are not, however, entitled to treatment by presenting a European Health Insurance Card in the Isle of Man or the so-called Channel Islands, i.e. Guernsey (including Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark) or in Jersey, as the islands in question are British Crown Dependencies and do not fall within the sphere of EU or EEA regulations. The following overseas territories also do not belong to the European Union: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
See a general practitioner (GP) who has an agreement with the NHS. When you show your European Health Insurance Card and ID at the appointment, treatment is free of charge. To see a specialist you usually need to have a GP´s referral. You should register yourself as a patient before meeting a NHS GP.
In the case of relatively minor injuries, you can also visit a walk-in centre in larger towns. These will treat you without an appointment free of charge.
You can also call NHS 111 at any time for help in issues relating to health and illnesses. You will be directed to the closest surgery that is open, where you receive the requisite care for your illnesses or injury.
If you need dental care, go to a dentist contracted to the NHS. You have to register yourself as a patient before meeting a NHS dentist. When booking an appointment, you should mention that you want treatment as an NHS patient. Show your European Health Insurance Card and ID at the appointment.
In addition to doctors, nurses are allowed to prescribe medication in the case of minor illnesses. When you go to a pharmacy to collect your prescription medicines, present your European Health Insurance Card and ID. There is a non-refundable charge for prescriptions that you have to pay at the pharmacy. You can ask the doctor about possible exemption from prescription charges during your appointment. All NHS dental treatment that is clinically necessary is provided at a standard non-refundable charge.
In general, apart from emergency care you can access hospital treatment if referred by a doctor, a dentist or an optician. In emergencies, you can go directly to the hospital´s Accident & Emergency department. Not all hospitals have one. When you go to a hospital, show your European Health Insurance Card and ID to obtain clinically necessary treatment and medicines free of charge. You can usually choose the hospital, provided that the unit is contracted to the NHS.
In emergencies, ambulance transport to the hospital is free. If your illness requires you to use special transport when returning to Finland, you will be liable for the travel costs in their entirety. You are recommended to take out a travel insurance that covers these costs.
Read more about suddenly falling ill in Europe.
Read more about reimbursement of costs of treatment abroad.
If you want to travel to the UK during the Brexit transition period (until the end of 2020) to use healthcare services there, you can find general information about seeking treatment abroad on our site. Some useful websites concerning seeking treatment in the UK are listed below. You should direct your questions about healthcare in the UK to the UK National Contact Points.
You can search for private physicians, dentists, hospitals and other healthcare providers in the UK on the Private Healthcare UK website. Information about private physicians can also be found on the Specialist Info search service. Relatively few GPs operate in the private sector.
Indicative information about the tariffs of healthcare providers operating within the NHS system in England is available on the Gov.uk website. Information about tariffs is updated annually.
Quality and safety of treatment
- In England, the quality of treatment is monitored by the Care Quality Commission, which monitors and inspects the quality and safety of care given by all healthcare service providers operating in the region. The site also provides regularly updated quality data and reports on all healthcare service providers.
- Treatment provided in Northern Ireland is monitored by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA). RQIA regularly inspects and reviews health and social care providers operating in the region.
- In Scotland, the Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) monitors the services provided by the NHS as well as those offered in the private sector.
- The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) is the independent inspectorate and regulator of healthcare in Wales.
In the event of treatment injuries, the legislation and patient insurance of the country providing the treatment is always applied. In case you are unhappy with the treatment you received, you should primarily try to sort the matter out with the treatment provider. The national contact points can help you with finding the right authority if you wish to make a complaint.