PLEASE NOTE: the contents of this page were up to date at the time of publication. Contact THT Direct for a referral to an immigration solicitor who will be able to advise you.
In the UK most healthcare is free for people who have the right to remain in the country, plus for some select others, through the NHS (the National Health Service).
HIV treatment is free for everyone, but other healthcare procedures might cost.
The NHS is a residence-based healthcare system. You must live in the UK permanently or be an EEA (European Economic Area) or UK citizen to be entitled to free healthcare from the NHS.
Certain healthcare services (like dentists and prescriptions) cost money even for people who are entitled to free healthcare in the UK – but they won’t have to pay if they are on a low income.
The rules are a bit more complicated for visitors to the UK.
Some services and treatments are free for everyone, whatever their immigration status:
For other treatment the hospital might ask you for payment before they will treat you. If you cannot pay (or show how you will pay later) they might refuse you treatment.
The NHS cannot refuse you treatment for any `life-threatening condition’ – which is something which might kill you if it is not treated. They might treat you and send you a bill afterwards though.
If you have a bill that you can’t pay the hospital might choose to write it off. This means that they will agree that you don’t have to pay them back. They might try to get the money from you legally over time instead though.
Unpaid bills might be counted against you if you are trying to stay in the country.
Get in touch with THT Direct at 0808 802 1221 and we’ll put you in touch with a local advice service.
You can also get immigration advice from our Online Advisor.
From 1st October 2012 all charges for HIV treatment for anyone who is resident in the UK, regardless of their immigration status, will be abolished.
However non-HIV NHS treatment may still cost you, unless it can be directly linked to your HIV. Find out more.
Although it can be extremely alarming to receive a bill for thousands of pounds of hospital treatment, you may be able to negotiate a realistic solution with the hospital.
It's important that you continue to take your treatment and here are some things you can do in the meantime:
Mistakes are sometimes made – you may be entitled to free treatment, but are still sent a bill. Get in touch with THT Direct at 0808 802 1221 and we’ll put you in touch with a local advice service.
There are many different rules concerning entitlement to free NHS hospital treatment.
Here are some of the main rules. If they do not apply to you, contact either THT Direct or NHS 24 for further advice.
If you're not resident in the UK you're still entitled to receive free NHS hospital treatment, including non-emergency treatment and treatment for pre-existing conditions, if you:
Read the full list of NHS treatment rules.
From 1 October 2012 all charges for HIV treatment for anyone who is resident in the UK, regardless of their immigration status, will be abolished.
However non-HIV NHS treatment may still be chargeable, unless it can be directly linked to your HIV. Find out more on the Department of Health website.
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Hi I am a Uk citizen wishing to go live in spain.
I would like to know how i go about getting my medication abroad if i do that.
I want a new start new life and wont be earning a fortune as only working 3 days and renting a place with a friend.
Is it illegal to keep popping home to the uk for my medication and how do I get it in spain if it is.
Thanks for any help david
This article was last reviewed on
by T. Kelaart
Date due for the next review: 21/3/2014
Content Author: E. Cotton
Current Owner: Advice & Advocacy
Seddon, Duran. Immigration, Nationality and Refugee Law Handbook, JCWI, 2006
UK Border Agency
Asylum seekers, Department of Health
Am I entitled to NHS treatment when I move to England?, NHS
HIV treatment for overseas visitors, Department of Health
Revised guidance on overseas visitors hospital charging regulations published
Changes to NHS charging rules for HIV from October 2012
Memory talks about living with HIV
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
Copyright 2014 © Terrence Higgins Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales (reg. no. 288527)
Company reg. no. 1778149 and a registered charity in Scotland (reg. no. SC039986)