If you have an accident or become ill while you’re on holiday, you can get reduced-cost or free state-provided medical care in Europe – thanks to the EHIC
What is an EHIC?
An EHIC is a European Health Insurance Card. If you're a citizen of the EU, the card entitles you to free or discounted medical treatment when you're in an EU country.
You follow the same rules as a citizen of that country – so if their medical care is completely free, so is yours.
An estimated 5.2 million EHICs are set to expire in 2015 – if you already have one, check the expiry date.
How it works
- The EHIC is free. To get one, just fill out an application on the EHIC website or by calling the NHS on 0300 330 1350. Once you've got a card, it's valid for the next 5 years.
- Your card is valid for five years and each card covers just one person. If you have a child under 16, include them on your application and you’ll both receive your own EHIC.
- You can also get treatment for a chronic or pre-existing medical condition during your trip. The EHIC card must be carried with you at all times if you need treatment – so pop it in your bag or wallet when you're out and about.
I have an E111 card, do I need an EHIC?
The EHIC card replaces the old E111 form, which was discontinued in 2005. So if you still have an E111, it's no longer valid.
You used to be able to book an E111 through the Post Office, but now it's only possible to apply for the card online.
You can use it across the EU
Your EHIC card is valid in the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus (Southern), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
It's not travel insurance
The EHIC is valuable protection, but it isn't a replacement for travel insurance.
By having both, you reduce the risk of large medical bills, delays in treatment and a huge amount of stress in the event of a medical emergency.
You pay the same as a citizen of the country you are currently in. That means if citizens of that country are expected to pay for medical treatment, you will too.
If you register for an EHIC and the card doesn't arrive before you're due to go on holiday, call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team, and they'll advise you on what to do.
Important EHIC update for visitors to Spain
The Department of Health and the British Embassy in Madrid have produced this video to help British holidaymakers planning a trip to Spain.