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Explainer: How French residents can access healthcare in UK on trips

Since Brexit, the rules for residents of France have changed, and your eligibility for free healthcare will depend on certain conditions 

Brexit changed the rules on accessing NHS healthcare when resident of France or other EU countries Pic: sukiyaki / Shutterstock

Following Brexit, there are specific rules relating to going to the UK for healthcare from France.

People with a French Ceam card

French cartes européennes d’assurance maladie Ceam cards (the equivalent of Ehics) continue to be recognised in the UK, a point agreed in the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

It means people insured in the French system through work or due to residency under Puma (eg. early retirees) and who have a French Ceam can continue to use these in the UK as before to access medically necessary healthcare if required during their trip.

NHS care will be free at the point of use if you present your Ceam to the provider in question, as you will be treated in the same way as a person in the national system. 

However, your cover will not include private healthcare, scheduled treatment or repatriation.

Ceam cards can also be used across EU member states. Further information on accessing healthcare in the EU is available on the Assurance Maladie website.

Holders of British Ehics/Ghics

British S1 holders who were living in France before 2021 and are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement can still have British-issued Ehics. New ones issued since the end of the Brexit transition period are marked with the letters ‘CRA’ (standing for Citizen’s Rights Agreement).

Ehics can be used across the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland. 

British S1 holders moving to France since 2021 have been issued with Ghics instead. These can be used across the EU and Switzerland.

UK-issued Ehics/Ghics are not intended for use within the UK itself, but rather for visits to other parts of the EU.

Pre-Brexit, the UK allowed its state pensioners living in the EU to use NHS services free of charge on presentation of a copy of their S1. The rules on this have now changed.

The UK’s Department for Health and Social Care told The Connexion that anyone who was living in France before 2021 (the end of the Brexit transition period) and who had registered their S1 with a French Cpam before then, can continue to use the NHS free of charge on visits. 

Those with this entitlement should take a copy of their S1 to show as evidence in the UK, if necessary.

We understand that the same rights should also apply to Britons who were living in France before 2021 and who later reach state pension age and obtain an S1 when they start to draw their pensions, however the UK’s DHSC has not so far confirmed the point to us.

However an official UK website states: “Some former UK residents do not have to pay for NHS treatment when visiting England. 

This includes:

  • UK war pensioners

  • UK government employees

  • UK nationals living in the EU on or before 31 December 2020, once they have a registered, UK-issued S1.”

This does not include newcomer pensioners with S1s issued since January 1, 2021. 

As they are not entitled to a French Ceam they may therefore be asked to pay for healthcare costs incurred during trips to the UK, and should, official UK sites state, look to take out a travel insurance policy including healthcare cover.

A spokeswoman for Cnam, responsible for the network of French Cpam state health insurance offices, said France has no responsibility for reimbursing this group for healthcare in the UK.

Some UK care is ‘free’ for all

It should be noted, however, that some care in the UK is ‘free’ at the point of delivery for everyone. This includes:

  • GP visits (though the practice has to accept to treat you as a temporary patient, which is not obligatory)

  • Treatment as an outpatient in an A&E department 

  • Treatment for most infectious diseases, including STIs

The UK government website states, among other points, that visitors to England will always be treated in the case of urgent treatment and treatment that cannot safely wait until you return home, and if necessary payment will be dealt with afterwards.

The NHS states that for overseas visitors not entitled to free healthcare: “Charges will be calculated at 150% of the national NHS rate.”

An indicative list of procedure prices issued by the system states that this year, an x-ray costs around £40, while an echocardiogram would come to around £120. 

The full list can be found here

Related articles 

Are UK Ghic applications taking longer than usual to process?

Post-Brexit travel healthcare: What is a UK ‘CRA’ Ehic card?

What health insurance do I need for a long-stay French visitor visa?

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