Do Britons lose access to NHS healthcare when moving to France?

When leaving the UK it is necessary to inform the NHS of non-residency

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Reader Question: Our main residency is in France, but we often go back to the UK where we have kept a property. Can we use the NHS when we are back?

If you permanently leave the UK, then you also rescind your rights to use some NHS services free of charge as it is a healthcare system mostly aimed at residents.

This is the case even if you split your time almost equally between France and the UK. If your main residency is in France, then this is where you receive your primary healthcare.

Read more: Is my French home my ‘main’ or ‘second’ residence?

You should have unregistered from NHS services, including your local GP, before moving, even if you retain an address in the UK.

There are some exceptions, such as UK war pension recipients and ex-diplomats, who can continue to receive full NHS care even if they move abroad, however for most people it is not possible.

This is the case even if you have a second home in the UK.

However, if you are in the French health system (without having your healthcare funded by another country via an S1 form) and have a carte européenne d'assurance maladie (Ceam) from France essential healthcare costs will be covered free of charge if you need to access healthcare when in the UK.

This is similar to the way that Britons visiting France are partially covered by their Ehic/Ghic cards.

In this case it may also be possible to apply for certain planned healthcare in the UK, funded by France, via an S2 form.

Read more: French health insurance travel card: How it works and how to get one

Note, however, that UK state pensioners with British S1 forms (whose healthcare in France is funded by the UK) cannot have a French Ehic, but have to apply to the UK for an Ehic or Ghic, and these cannot be used in the UK.

If, however, you were a resident of France or elsewhere in the EU before December 31, 2020 and have a registered S1 form, you do not have to pay for NHS treatment.

We have not been able to identify any specific help available to UK state pensioners who have moved to France since Brexit and have their healthcare covered by a British S1. They are advised to look into comprehensive private health cover for trips.

Some services can still be accessed

However, ‘primary care’ services are still accessible to those who live abroad permanently, including registering with a GP.

‘Temporary visitors to the UK can sign up to a local GP for anywhere from one day up to three months.

Generally if in the UK for longer than this they are ‘encouraged’ to sign up as a permanent resident although this is not possible if you intend to maintain your main home in France.

There is no limit on the number of times you can apply temporarily to a GP, and they are technically not supposed to refuse any such requests, however getting an appointment may be difficult.

Other primary care services including emergency care (A & E) are also available free of charge to anyone in the UK at the time, but any follow-up treatment in hospital may be chargeable. Seeing a specialist would also incur charges as it is not considered primary care.

Urgent medical treatment will never be denied due to lack of payment with the financial aspects being arranged after this has taken place.

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