Guidance

Healthcare in Belgium

Healthcare information for UK nationals visiting, living in or moving to Belgium.

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This content was originally published on the NHS website.

Healthcare after Brexit

You should prepare for possible changes to your access to healthcare if there is a no-deal Brexit and you are a UK national travelling to or living in Belgium.

There may be a gap or permanent change in how you access healthcare if there is no deal and no agreements with Belgium in place. For example, if you are a current S1 form holder, or a posted worker or student using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you will not be able to rely on these to access your healthcare as you do now.

Arrangement with Belgium if there is a no-deal Brexit

The Belgian government has published legislation about the rights of UK nationals in Belgium if there is a no-deal Brexit. If agreed, the existing rights for UK nationals and their family members would be protected until 31 December 2020 as long as reciprocal arrangements are in place for Belgian nationals in the UK.

If you live in Belgium

If you have registered to live in Belgium and have statutory or private health insurance or pay social security contributions, your access to healthcare will not change after Brexit. This applies if you are an employee or self-employed.

If you do not have statutory or private health insurance or pay social security contributions in Belgium, you should be ready for possible changes to your access to healthcare if there is a no-deal Brexit.

You need to make the best decisions for your circumstances and consider:

  • registering to live in Belgium
  • registering for healthcare under the local rules and legislation of Belgium - all legal residents in Belgium must join a health insurance fund (mutuelle or ziekenfonds)
  • buying comprehensive health insurance while you are applying for residency or if you are not eligible for local schemes

Make sure you have all the right documentation and it is up to date. If you have not applied for an S1, consider applying for this before Brexit if you are eligible.

S1 certificate holders

Your S1 certificate may not be valid if there is a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on whether the UK has an arrangement with Belgium and may mean you have to pay for treatment.

It is possible to apply for an S1 certificate until the UK leaves the EU. It is important to have all the right documentation and that it is up to date.

Studying in Belgium after Brexit

Your EHIC may not be valid after exit day if there is a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on whether the UK has an arrangement with Belgium and might mean you need to pay in full for treatment.

If you’re already studying in Belgium before the UK leaves the EU, the UK will cover your healthcare costs for the duration of your course.

Students starting courses after the UK leaves the EU should ensure they have comprehensive healthcare cover in place.

Get help paying for medical treatment

During the first 6 months after Brexit, if you need medical treatment and you’re being asked to pay for it, the UK can help.

This may be through arrangements with the country you live in, or by paying your healthcare provider directly.

To organise a payment, you’ll need to give your healthcare provider’s details to the NHS Business Services Authority’s Overseas Healthcare Services.

Call the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 (0)191 218 1999 for more information. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 3pm (UK time).

Using NHS services when visiting the UK

You should not expect to be able to use NHS services for free if you are not currently eligible for a UK-issued S1 form or EHIC. You should take out appropriate travel insurance when visiting the UK, as you would when visiting any other country.

You may use NHS services in England, Scotland and Wales without charge, after Brexit if you are living in Belgium before exit day and you:

  • have a UK-issued S1 form
  • have a UK-issued EHIC
  • would have been eligible for the UK to fund your healthcare access, if exit day had not occurred

This will remain the case after exit day.

Returning to the UK permanently

If you meet the ordinarily resident test you will be able to access NHS care without charge.

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC)

Your EHIC may not be valid after exit day if there is a no-deal Brexit. This will depend on whether the UK has an arrangement with Belgium and might mean you need to pay for treatment.

Check your insurance has the necessary healthcare cover to ensure you can get any treatment you might need.

If you have any pre-existing health conditions, talk to your insurer about how to get the right cover, and how this affects your travel.

UK-issued EHICs will still be valid until the UK leaves the EU. Your EHIC can also be used to access UK funded treatment if your visit or treatment started before exit day until you return to the UK.

To organise a payment, you’ll need to give your healthcare provider’s details to the NHS Business Services Authority’s Overseas Healthcare Services.

Call the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 (0)191 218 1999 for more information. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 3pm (UK time).

Living in Belgium

This section is about healthcare in Belgium before Brexit. Read the section Healthcare after Brexit.

Health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Belgium. It is financed through social security contributions and monthly premiums to insurance providers. All insurance providers must offer the same services. There are 7 health insurance federations in Belgium, that all operate as not-for-profit.

Working in Belgium

This section is about healthcare in Belgium before Brexit. Read the section Healthcare after Brexit.

If you are working in Belgium, you’ll have to register with a health insurance fund to receive medical care in the country. These are called ‘mutuelles’ or ‘ziekenfonds’.

Very occasionally, the full cost of medical treatment is reimbursed through the mutuelles or ziekenfonds. However, normally up to 80% will be returned with the remainder covered by the patient.

Once you’ve registered, all your dependants can also be covered under the social insurance scheme at no extra charge.

Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security. This covers your basic insurance. You must also pay a monthly health insurance premium to the mutuelles or ziekenfonds. The amount you must pay is set by the Belgian government.

You can also choose to take out further insurance to cover any fees that cannot be reimbursed by the mutuelles or ziekenfonds.

UK posted workers

If you are a worker posted by a UK company to Belgium, you may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you are posted to.

You can find out more from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC):

More information about current arrangements can be found on the Belgian social security website.

S1 certificate

This section is about healthcare in Belgium before Brexit. Read the section Healthcare after Brexit.

You may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK if you live in Belgium and receive:

  • an exportable UK State Pension
  • a contribution-based Employment Support Allowance
  • another exportable benefit

An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Belgium. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until the UK leaves the EU.

You may be eligible for an S1 certificate, if you:

  • receive certain UK benefits, such as a UK State Pension
  • are employed by a UK body or firm (you are a posted or frontier worker)
  • are a dependant of someone who has an S1 certificate

You can apply for an S1 certificate through the Business Services Authority.

If you receive a UK State Pension, you can apply for your certificate via the Overseas Healthcare Service on +44 (0) 191 218 1999 (option 5).

For other exportable benefits, you may need to contact a different team depending on the exportable benefit. You can find more information under Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad. Please note that different exportable benefits can have different rules in terms of healthcare cover.

Studying in Belgium

This section is about healthcare in Belgium before Brexit. Read the section Healthcare after Brexit.

The government always advises UK nationals to take out comprehensive insurance when going overseas. Your EHIC is not an alternative to insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

Read more about healthcare when studying abroad.

For more information about healthcare when living abroad, read the NHS guide on planning your healthcare when moving abroad.

Visiting Belgium

This section is about visiting Belgium before Brexit. Read the section Healthcare after Brexit.

Make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance if you’re planning to visit Belgium. The government always advises UK citizens to take out comprehensive travel insurance when going overseas. Your EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both when you travel abroad.

Emergency medical care is given to anyone requiring urgent attention. You can expect to be charged in full for any care provided without an EHIC.

Your EHIC enables you to access necessary state-provided healthcare in Belgium at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, if you are staying there temporarily.

Make sure you’re treated by a healthcare provider in the state system as you will not be covered for private healthcare with an EHIC.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork.

Pre-existing health conditions

You should buy medical travel insurance before visiting Belgium if you have a pre-existing health condition. You must tell the insurance company about any pre-existing health conditions you have, to make sure you can get the cover you need.

The Money and Pensions Advice Service has information about buying travel insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

If you have a pre-existing condition that will need treatment while abroad, ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel. Take any documents about your health condition or medicine with you.

If you are travelling to have planned medical treatment, read the NHS guide to seeking medical treatment in Europe.

Healthcare services in Belgium

Finding help in an emergency

Call 100, 112 or (114 hearing assisted) if you have a serious or life-threatening emergency in Belgium or you need an ambulance. Calls are free of charge.

Dentists

You need to pay a fee directly to a dentist to receive treatment. You can claim back up to 80% of the costs incurred while you’re in Belgium.

Ask the dentist for a receipt on the official form - this is called ‘attestation de soins donnés’ or ‘getuigschrift voor verstrekte hulp’. You need this to claim money back.

Some dentists accept part payment if you show your EHIC. Check before booking an appointment with a dentist, as treatment charges vary considerably.

Hospitals

Hospital care in Belgium is not free. Most inpatient care carries a fixed daily fee plus the cost of medicines and tests.

If you are admitted to hospital, make sure you present your EHIC (if you are a visitor) or your Belgian residence identity card (residents only).

Take your British passport with you. This will save you paying any refundable costs up front and ensure you only pay the patient contribution.

Prescriptions

You will have to pay for your prescription at the pharmacy. The EHIC does not cover the cost for prescriptions and you will not be able to claim a refund.

Most pharmacies in Belgium operate on regular working hours, with a telephone number operating 24 hours a day. If a pharmacy is closed, the nearest open pharmacy will be advertised.

Call 0903 99 000 for information about duty pharmacies. Calls cost €1.50 per minute. It’s a 24-hour phone service to help you find pharmacies in your area. You can also use their online service and search for pharmacies via postcode.

Bringing your own medicines to Belgium

Some prescribed medicines contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation in the UK. This means that additional legal controls apply to these medicines.

You may need a personal license to take controlled medicines abroad.

Specific requirements also apply to:

  • the information that you must take with you
  • how you carry your controlled medicines

Read more about travelling with controlled medicines.

Published 23 September 2019