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If you planning on travelling within the EEA, you may not be aware that you should apply for an EHIC to cover the cost of any emergency medical treatment should you fall ill or have an accident while you are away. Here, we address the main queries that travellers ask about the European Health Insurance Card in this FAQ section.

What is the EHIC?

The EHIC or European Health Insurance Card is a document which can be issued free of charge to any resident within the UK. Holders are entitled to receive medical treatment from any public hospital within the EEA area or at any public hospital in Switzerland on an identical basis to any citizen of that country. Every individual traveller must hold their own EHIC, including children and infants.

What is Covered by the EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card entitles the holder to receive treatment for free or at a lower cost on the same basis as a citizen of the country in which they are staying. As healthcare systems vary between countries, the EHIC may not cover all of the treatments that are given for free in the UK under the NHS. You must always carry your EHIC when travelling in the EEA to show that you are eligible for medical treatment.

Will I Still Need Travel Insurance if I Hold an EHIC?

It is still important to obtain adequate travel insurance when travelling within the EEA even if you have an EHIC. This is because not everything is covered by this document. For example, the European Health Insurance Card does not cover the following:

·         All costs of treatment – very few EU countries cover the entire cost of all treatment and no private treatments are covered by the EHIC card.

·         Dental treatment is not covered in every country.

·         In some emergency situations, you may be taken to a private hospital and this treatment will therefore not be covered.

·         Repatriation to the UK.

It is essential, therefore, to recognise that the EHIC should not be considered as an alternative to adequate travel insurance and you should have both in place before travelling. Many insurers waive the excess fee if the EHIC is used to receive treatment.

Where can the EHIC be Used?

The European Health Insurance Card can be used anywhere within the EEA as well as Switzerland. The EEA covers all 28 EU member states as well as Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.

Is a Fee Charged for the EHIC?

The EHIC is issued free of charge, however there are some other unofficial websites which may charge a fee for arranging one for you. You can apply for the EHIC online at, over the phone on 0300 330 1350, or by downloading the form from and submitting it by post. You must submit your NHS number or National Insurance number when making your application. If you apply by telephone or through the NHS website, you will be covered from the date that you submitted your application.

Will my EHIC Card Need to be Renewed?

Each EHIC card only remains valid for 5 years, so you must check its validity before travelling. There is no fee to renew your card and it can be renewed up to 6 months before its expiry date, but no remaining time will be added to the new card.

How is the EHIC Used?

If you require medical treatment when abroad, you should try if possible to use a public medical facility as the EHIC cannot be used in a private treatment centre. You may have to specifically ask for a public centre, otherwise you may be taken to a private hospital instead. If you have enough time to contact your travel insurer, they will know where the nearest appropriate medical treatment centre is. To make this easier, you should store the telephone number of your travel insurer in your contacts list. When you arrive at the hospital, you should show the staff your EHIC before obtaining treatment. In some countries, you will have to pay for your treatment up front and then claim your refund later, so you must retain all paperwork and receipts in case you need to apply for a reimbursement.

What do I do if I Forget my EHIC When I go to the Hospital?

If you are travelling within the EEA and require treatment but have forgotten to take your EHIC with you, you can get a PRC (Provisional Replacement Certificate) which will prove that you are entitled to receive medical care. This document is issued directly to the centre where you are receiving treatment. You can apply for the PRC by telephoning the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team (00 44 191 218 1999). The lines are open between 8 am and 5 pm on weekdays. You must give your personal details such as your name, birthdate and address as well as your NHS or NI number at the time of applying. You should save this phone number in your contacts list in case you need it in an emergency. If you hold travel insurance, their emergency medical assistance service can apply for the PRC for you.

Can the Hospital Refuse to Recognise the EHIC?

Under the terms of the EHIC, every public medical facility in Switzerland and the EEA must accept the EHIC. Should you experience any difficulty in using the card, you should immediately contact your travel insurance company.