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  • Writer's pictureJoe Woodhouse

Can Expats Use the NHS?

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

The NHS always seems to be in the news these days, and not always for the right reasons.

But do you actually qualify for the NHS, if you’re an Expat?

After I left the UK I realised just how precious the NHS is. As many of you know, up until the start of this year I lived in Abu Dhabi, and my wife gave birth to our twin boys in June 2018. Don’t get me wrong, the Dr’s and Nurses at the Corniche Hospital hospital, especially in NICU where my sons lived for the first 2 weeks of their lives were outstanding and I’ll be forever grateful.

But, both of my boys have quite a rare medical issue, and, since being discharged from the care of the Corniche Hospital the service we've received "privately" has been pretty alarming. Even simple things such as getting regular medication, on time and in date, is more difficult than anyone back in the UK could ever imagine.

And when things like this happen that you realise, we’ve got it right back home. 

This brings me onto the big question. As an Expat. Are you covered by the NHS? What if you were sick on a family visit home? Or what if you had a serious illness and wanted to be treated at home? 

The short answer is NO.

It’s nothing to do with how many houses, or pensions you’ve got in the UK, how many years National Insurance you’ve paid, or even if you’re still paying your National Insurance as an Expat. It’s still a No.

There are a few exceptions, such as if you live in Europe and receive some form of UK state benefit or pension, but let’s be honest. That’ll also change pretty soon. 

The NHS is only provided if you are “ordinarily resident”, and when you leave the UK you’re supposed to notify your GP so you can be removed from the NHS register. 

Now, I know there’s gonna be a load of people reading this that think they’re above that. "Ah they’d never know. I’m still registered at my GP, or I’d just refuse to pay". Look, I’ve heard it all. And good luck. But I've heard a few stories of varying degrees and personally know expats who've been charged by the NHS, I don’t know what they told the Dr’s or how the conversations went, I just know they got charged. A lot!

In fact, you will pay 150% of the cost when using NHS facilities as a Non UK resident. 

The cost of a normal birth? £2,200. So it would cost me £3,300 as an expat!

Well... it would actually have cost me much more, as it was Twins! And they spent a fortnight under 24 hour watch in NICU, the cost doesn’t bear thinking about.

A hip replacement would usually be £7,800 - so for a non resident that's £11,700. 

So the message and warning of this is, make sure your health insurance, whether it be a personal policy or through your employer, covers you overseas.

Or you could be in for a nasty shock if you fell Ill while visiting the UK.

Thanks for reading.


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