[Article updated on May 11 at 16:05]
Reader Question: We’re planning to visit friends in France soon and have applied for a Ghic but it has not come. Are there delays?
Since the UK left the European Union, the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) has gradually been replaced by a Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) for most people who live in the UK.
The main exception to the rule is EU (but not also British) citizens who live in the UK with ‘settled status’ under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), who can still be issued with British Ehics, as can British pensioners and certain UK disability benefit claimants living in the EU with rights under the WA.
The cards enables Britons travelling in Europe to access free or reduced cost:
- Emergency healthcare treatment, including medically necessary treatment for pre-existing or chronic conditions
- Visits to A&E
- Routine maternity care, unless you are going abroad to give birth, in which case you will need to make additional arrangements.
Although described as ‘Global’, the new British card can only be used in the EU and Switzerland.
You can apply for a Ghic through this NHS page. Although the service aims to send you your card within 10 days, it has recently warned that it is receiving a high number of applications and that processing times could be longer than usual.
People planning trips abroad are encouraged to apply for their card a few weeks in advance to ensure that it arrives on time.
“We’re working to resolve this and will process all applications as soon as possible,” the service states.
The Connexion contacted the NHS Business Services Authority – which is responsible for overseas healthcare services – to ask whether the backlog is starting to clear and when applicants can expect a return to normal.
A spokesperson said: "It currently takes up to 20 working days from the point of approval to receive a UK GHIC or UK EHIC.
"We’ve seen higher than normal levels of applications for this time of year as a result of a WhatsApp message, which was subsequently shared on social media, containing misinformation about deadlines to apply for the UK GHIC and UK EHIC."
It is worth noting that if you already have an in-date Ehic card, you can still continue to use it until its expiry date. However, if you know that you will need a new Ghic for your trip, you can apply up to six months before the expiration date of your current card.
If you applied for a Ghic which did not arrive in time and you are now abroad and needing medical treatment, you can request a Provisional Replacement Certificate, which proves your entitlement to medically necessary healthcare.
You can ask for a certificate by calling the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 191 218 1999 between 08:00 and 18:00.
When you call, you will need your National Insurance number, name, address, date of birth, the name of the treatment facility and the email address of the specific department or organisation.
If you cannot speak on the phone, someone else may apply for a PRC on your behalf.
It should be noted that Ghics are always free of charge from the NHS, although third-party websites may try to apply a fee to your application.