Written by Christopher Nye,
12th September 2019

For many of our readers coming back to Britain after living abroad, one of the concerns is whether they can still access the NHS and other medical services. Fortunately, the answer is a yes, with no time requirement after moving back. Here’s how to access healthcare when returning to the UK, plus what help with costs you could be entitled to.

Using NHS healthcare when returning to the UK

Entitlement to the NHS is based on residency and not national insurance contributions, paying taxes, your nationality and so on. Anyone at all in the UK can access emergency services and primary care, wile non-emergency healthcare is available to anyone who is a UK resident. As a holder of a UK passport, you automatically have the ‘right of abode’ here, and are therefore immediately resident.

Anyone with British citizenship is able to access to the NHS as soon as they return to the UK.

Anyone with British citizenship is able to access to the NHS as soon as they return to the UK.

There process is essentially the same as if you’d just moved within the UK. Simply register yourself with a local GP practice (if you haven’t yet got a permanent address, you can register as a temporary patient for up to three months). However, the first time you have treatment anywhere on the NHS apart from A&E, you’ll need to prove your entitlement as a one-off check. To do so, just bring two documents that show residency and/or employment status in the UK, such as proof of a property purchase or a rental lease, a recent bill, a bank statement from a British bank, a payslip or even evidence that you have sold your home abroad and shipped your belongings back here.

What to bring from abroad

If you can, it’s always a good idea to have your medical records transferred to the UK. The NHS will only accept them if they’re in English (or Welsh), either originally or translated by an official translator. If the records can’t be transferred, ask your doctor to put together a short summary of your medical history, including any current conditions and medicine taken for these, any allergies or reactions you have and any significant surgery or procedures you’ve undergone.

Age UK also recommends that you bring sufficient supplies of any prescription medicine to last you until you have registered with the GP.

S1 healthcare contributions

If you were living in the EU or wider EEA, and had registered an S1 form in that country for UK exportable benefits, then make sure you:

  • Inform the local authorities in the country you were living in that you have moved back to the UK
  • Contact the Department for Work and Pensions Overseas Healthcare Team to ask them to stop payments

Getting help with healthcare costs

As a British citizen, you are entitled to the same financial help with healthcare when returning to the UK as anyone else. As soon as you return, you can request a local authority needs assessment, if you have care and support needs. If the LA decides it does have a duty to meet your needs, then they’ll also carry out a financial assessment.

Likewise, you can immediately apply for help with the costs of dental care, prescriptions and eye care under the NHS’ low income scheme. If you incur costs before your application is accepted, you can usually claim these back retrospectively.

Dental care when returning to the UK

Dental care works exactly the same as for anyone moving between cities; simply find a dentist accepting NHS patients. Where possible, try to bring your dental healthcare records back to the UK. If they’re not in English, an official translator will need to translate them.

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The UK Buying Guide takes you through each stage of the property buying process, with practical recommendations from our experts who have been through the process themselves. The guide will help you to:


  Understand Brexit
  Ask the right questions
  Avoid the legal pitfalls
  Find your property
  Avoid losing money
  Move in successfully

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