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Healthcare in Europe

The European Health Insurance Card

If you are going overseas on holiday or on a business trip in the European Economic Area (which consists of the 27 European Union Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland you should apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). 

This may give you access to free or reduced-cost state medical treatment in the country you are visiting, if you become ill or have an accident. 

The EHIC scheme is administered on a UK-wide basis by the Department for Work & Pensions.  Full details about how to apply for an EHIC (which is free of charge), the treatment and services it covers and where it can be used is available on the Department of Health's NHS Choices website:

Please note: There are a number of independent organisations on the Web that offer to check your EHIC application for a fee. Although legal, this practice is not endorsed by the Department of Health or by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Planned Healthcare in Europe

If you are thinking of going to another EEA country specifically for medical treatment, different rules apply than for obtaining necessary healthcare whilst abroad during a holiday or business trip.  And it is important to note that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not cover planned treatment.

Before you make any travel or medical arrangements for planned treatment, you should discuss your proposals with your doctor, where possible.  They will advise you of the options available to you or will refer you to a clinician in the NHS Board in the area where you live, who will discuss your options and confirm the following:

  • The treatments that the Board is prepared to fund / reimburse
  • That you fully understand the conditions under which you will be treated abroad
  • Any programme of after-care or follow-up treatment you might require upon your return to the UK

There are two possible routes to obtain planned treatment in the EEA:

  • The S2 scheme; or
  • Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (under the European Cross-border Healthcare Directive)

Your NHS healthcare provider can advise you on which option is better for the type of treatment you require as each option works in a slightly different way.  

The S2 Scheme

The S2 scheme entitles you, in certain circumstances, to access treatment in the state-funded sector in another EEA country. Treatment is provided under the same conditions of care and payment as residents of that country. 

You must apply to your NHS Board for their agreement to recommend funding for treatment.  In making this decision, it will need to be satisfied that:

  • You are ordinarily resident in Scotland and are entitled to treatment under the NHS
  • An NHS consultant has recommended in writing that you be treated in the other EEA country, and that a full clinical assessment has been carried out to demonstrate that the treatment will meet your specific needs
  • The costs of sending you abroad for treatment are justified against the Board’s responsibilities for spending money efficiently and fairly, in the interest of all the patients they look after
  • The treatment is available under the other country’s state health scheme

If your Board agrees that you can go abroad for treatment, the appropriate paperwork will be passed to the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle to process. If they are content to issue an S2 form, you will need to take it with you to the other European country that has agreed to provide your treatment. 

For more information contact The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who administer the S2 scheme on a UK wide basis: