Seeking Treatment in Europe

People living in Wales have the right to seek treatment in another European Economic (EEA) country under certain circumstances. Details of the procedure for accessing treatment are detailed in a Welsh Government guidance document.

A leaflet produced by Powys Teaching Health Board gives general information to people in Wales on accessing treatment in the EEA and is available here.

You can view the European Commission video here.

If you're thinking about having medical treatment abroad, it's important to understand how it works and the risks involved. If you don't follow the correct procedures, you may end up being responsible for the full cost of treatment.

For example, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does not cover going abroad for medical treatment. The EHIC is for emergency treatment that becomes necessary while you're abroad.

There are two ways to access NHS-funded healthcare in other EEA countries, through the S2 Route or The Directive Route.

1. The S2 Route (or E112)

This is a direct arrangement between the NHS and the state healthcare provider in the country of your choice. Prior approval is required.

2. The EU Directive on cross-border healthcare (or article 56)

Generally, you’ll have to pay the costs of treatment abroad and then claim reimbursement from the NHS when you return. Depending on the treatment, it may be necessary for you to obtain authorisation from your Health Board before receiving treatment. 

Each option works in a slightly different way. Read more information about the S2 route and the EU Directive on cross-border healthcare.

Where to start

If you're planning to have treatment abroad, it's important to discuss your plans with your doctor before making any final decisions about travel or medical arrangements.

You will need to apply for funding prior to treatment if:

  • you are seeking funding via the S2 route
  • or the treatment  for which you are seeking is subject to prior authorisation.  Find out what types of services require prior authorisation.

If you are still not sure that prior authorisation is required, contact your local Health Board.

Although applying for funding prior to treatment is not mandatory for other requests, we do recommend that you contact your local National Contact Point (NCP) or apply for funding before treatment in all cases. This will enable the NCP to provide you with information relating to eligibility and the funding or reimbursement process.

You'll need to be aware of how your aftercare will be provided when you return home and understand the conditions under which you will be treated abroad.

You should also ensure that you have adequate insurance. Most travel insurance policies will not cover you for planned treatment abroad, so you may need special cover.

Do your research

Going for medical treatment in the EEA isn't easy and your GP can only do so much to help you. You will have to make most of the arrangements yourself, including finding a healthcare provider and all the travel arrangements.

Therefore, it's important to do some research and gather enough information to make an informed choice. You should consider:

  • any language barriers
  • whether you know enough about the people who will treat you and the facilities available
  • communication between medical staff abroad and the UK, such as exchanging medical records and arranging aftercare for your return home
  • how to make a complaint if things go wrong (the NHS is not liable for any negligence or failure of treatment)

Last Updated: 01/04/2017 09:00:00