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Government takes steps to protect healthcare access for UK nationals living in the EU after 31 October

Government commits to funding healthcare for over 180,000 UK nationals living in the EU for 6 months following Brexit if we leave without a deal.

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People already living in the EU who have their healthcare funded by the UK, including pensioners and students, will have their healthcare costs covered for 6 months if we leave without a deal.

The government has proposed to each EU member state that, if we leave without a deal, existing healthcare arrangements continue until 31 December 2020 in the same way that they do now.

Discussions are ongoing but if arrangements with all member states have not been finalised by 31 October, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has today confirmed the government will provide support to around 180,000 UK nationals living in the EU who currently have their healthcare costs paid for by the UK for a 6-month period following exit day. This includes pensioners, students, those on disability benefits and UK workers temporarily posted in the EU.

The government has also committed to covering the costs of UK nationals in the EU who are in the middle of treatment when we leave the EU, for up to a year.

The government will also provide cover during the time it takes to be registered with a local healthcare scheme. This is to ensure people are not exposed to gaps in healthcare coverage and potentially high costs while they register for healthcare locally. To be eligible for this support, people must apply within local timeframes or no later than 6 months after we leave, whichever is the shortest.

The NHS is writing to 180,000 UK nationals living in the EU to make them aware of the information they need in the country they live in:

The value of the commitment will ultimately depend on which EU countries accept the government’s offer. Modelling has been performed to assess the likely costs of the policy if it is required. This suggests the maximum expenditure the government would expect to make under this commitment if no further bilateral agreements are finalised may be in the region of £50 million in 2019 to 2020 and £100 million in 2020 to 2021 but could be significantly lower.

In addition to this, the government has committed to:

  • cover the healthcare costs for students who began their courses in the EU ahead of 31 October for the duration of their course
  • cover the healthcare costs of UK visitors to the EU who commenced their trip before the UK left the EU until they return to the UK
  • ensure that people currently insured by the UK living in the EU can return to use the NHS temporarily in England, Wales and Scotland free of charge

British citizens living in Ireland will be able to access healthcare in Ireland in the same way as before Brexit.

The UK and Spain have each taken steps to ensure that people living in each country can continue to access healthcare as they do now until at least 31 December 2020. This means that your healthcare access will remain the same after 31 October 2019, whatever the Brexit scenario.

See the NHS travelling and living abroad guides for the latest information on individual countries.

People should not delay taking action to put appropriate permanent arrangements in place for after exit day, particularly as for some EU countries the timeframe for UK nationals to register with their domestic health system is far shorter than 6 months.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

Protecting the healthcare rights of UK nationals is a priority of this government.

While the government continues to work towards a good deal, I am today announcing that pensioners, students and UK workers living in the EU will have their healthcare costs covered for 6 months after 31 October, whatever the circumstances of Brexit.

All UK nationals in the EU should act now and take the simple steps needed to secure their access to healthcare.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Nick Archer, said:

We are pleased to confirm this additional support, which has been offered to pensioners and others who have their healthcare covered by the UK.

These transitional arrangements provide welcome reassurance to thousands of our UK residents living in Europe who may have their access to healthcare affected after Brexit.

Published 23 September 2019
Last updated 23 September 2019 + show all updates
  1. Add information on healthcare in Spain.
  2. First published.