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If I am eligible to receive NHS treatment in a hospital on the same basis as a UK national ordinarily resident in Scotland, can I access general medical services (GMS) provided by a family doctor?

The provision of GMS; the basis of that provision; and inclusion on a general practitioner’s list is a matter for the relevant practice.  

The decision on whether or not to register any patient is ultimately a matter for general practitioners, although they must comply with the terms of their contract regulations as well as to human rights and discrimination legislation. If you have difficulty in registering with a GP, you should get in touch with your local NHS Board.

Every GP practice has a duty to provide free immediately necessary or emergency treatment to any patient, regardless of all other considerations.   

If I am eligible to receive NHS treatment on the same basis as a UK national who is ordinarily resident in Scotland, does this mean that I do not have to pay charges for any NHS treatment or services?

No.  While the majority of care and services will be free, In common with those who are ordinarily resident in Scotland, anyone who is exempt from charges for NHS treatment may still have to pay statutory NHS charges - as an example, for dental treatment or glasses.

If I am not eligible to receive NHS treatment on the same basis as a UK National who is ordinarily resident in Scotland, will I be charged for NHS treatment or services?

If you are not ordinarily resident; do not meet a charges exemption category in the Charging Regulations; are not in receipt of a European Health Insurance Card; or do not come from a country that has a reciprocal health agreement with the UK then charges can be applied for any general medical services and will be applied for hospital treatment.

Regardless of your entitlement to receive NHS care and services, you should secure appropriate independent travel insurance with a health element before travelling, as in the unfortunate event of serious illness or accident, repatriation costs with medical care can be very expensive.

Do I have to pay for emergency treatment if I suddenly become ill or have an accident?

No.  Regardless of place of ordinary residence or nationality, emergency treatment provided in primary care premises or in an Accident & Emergency / casualty department is free of charge.  Although a stay in hospital or outpatient care, following immediately necessary treatment to stabilise the patient may incur costs.  

What about UK nationals?  I hold a UK passport / have paid taxes in the past / own a property in the UK?

When establishing your entitlement to NHS healthcare it is your place of ordinary residence and your purpose(s) for being in Scotland / the UK that are taken into account.

How do I know if I have to pay?

The NHS healthcare provider will tell you if you are entitled to free NHS treatment or services or if you will be expected to pay.  They may ask to see documentation to decide whether or not charges should be applied.

I have 'no recourse to public funds' stamped in my passport / visa?

This has no bearing on your entitlement to NHS healthcare, as it relates to state benefits (social security payments).  It is your legal right to remain in the UK and your purpose(s) for being in Scotland that will determine whether you are entitled to receive NHS care and services and on what basis.  

Is referral by a General Practitioner proof that a person is exempt from NHS charges for hospital care?

No.  NHS hospitals have a duty to decide, in accordance with the Charging Regulations, whether or not a patient is liable to be charged for treatment. NHS staff will ask you about your reason(s) for being in the country, and will wish to see supporting documentation, to help them decide if you can be treated as an NHS patient.

How long do I need to spend in the UK to establish 'ordinarily resident' status?

People who are not exempt from NHS charges need to reside in the UK, lawfully, for at least 6 months to establish ‘ordinarily resident’ status (reside in the UK, for the time being, for a settled purpose) to access NHS care and services on the same basis as a UK citizen ordinarily resident in Scotland. However, the final decision is for healthcare providers, based on the individual’s personal circumstances.

Are any services/treatments exempt from NHS charges?

Yes, some health care services are free for everyone. These include:

  • Emergency care in a hospital (in an accident and emergency department or in a casualty department)
  • Emergency care at a family doctor’s surgery
  • Emergency transport in an ambulance
  • Sexual health services
  • Treatment for some infectious diseases and sexually transmitted infections
  • Involuntary psychiatric treatment
Am I entitled to NHS Healthcare if I take up or resuming permanent residence in the UK?

Yes. Anyone who holds a UK passport or has right of abode and is taking up or resuming permanent residence in the UK is entitled to free NHS hospital care in Scotland. You will be exempt from charges from the date of your arrival in the country but will be asked to prove your intention and that you are legally entitled to live here. This applies to your spouse; civil partner and any dependent children up to the age of 16, or 19 if in full time education.

If you do not have an automatic right to take up permanent residence, but have applied to the UK Border Agency for leave to enter/remain on a settled basis, you may be charged for any treatment until either your application is granted or you accrue, at least, six months lawful residence in the UK.

I am coming to the UK to marry a UK national living here.  Does that entitle me to receive free NHS healthcare?

A person who has been given leave to enter the UK by the UK Border Agency to marry or become the civil partner of someone who is ordinarily resident here may be regarded as taking up permanent residence, and therefore is exempt from charges for NHS treatment if they can present a visa to this effect.

How long can I spend outside the UK to retain my right to access free NHS healthcare?

To retain your right to access NHS services as a person ordinarily resident in Scotland, you must spend no more than three months of the year (continuously) outside the UK and must be lawfully entitled to return and remain within the UK. 

Please note: Different rules apply to UK State / War / War Widow Pensioners and former UK residents who are working overseas.

I live as an "insured" resident of a European Economic Area (EEA) country.  Am I entitled to access free NHS healthcare when I visit Scotland?

If you live permanently (or for more than three months each year) in another EEA member state and become an "insured" resident of that member state (for the purposes of state healthcare), you will be entitled to "all necessary treatment" free of charge if you visit the UK.

This covers treatment the need for which arises whilst in the UK, including pre-existing conditions which acutely exacerbate unexpectedly, or, in the opinion of a clinician, would be likely to acutely exacerbate without treatment, and also the treatment of chronic conditions, including routine monitoring. It does not cover elective treatment such as pre-planned operations without special arrangement.

You will need to produce a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), or a Provisional Replacement Certificate.  Failure to do so may result in you being charged for your treatment and the need to apply to your member state of residence for reimbursement.

I live in a country that has a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK.  What are my NHS healthcare entitlements when I visit Scotland?

If you have previously lived lawfully in the UK for 10 continuous years and now live permanently in a country with which the UK has a reciprocal health agreement, you will be exempt from charges for treatment for a condition which arises after your arrival here.