Health Services: British Nationals Abroad

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Independent, Liverpool, Wavertree

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what contingency plans his Department has in place to ensure that reciprocal healthcare arrangements stay in place for UK citizens living in European countries following the UK leaving the EU (a) with and (b) without an agreement.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The United Kingdom Government appreciates the importance of retaining reciprocal healthcare arrangements with the European Union and has been clear in the negotiations that it wants to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU. Extensive work to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario, including contingency planning, has been under way for over two years and we are taking necessary steps to ensure the country continues to operate smoothly from the day we leave.

Subject to the Withdrawal Agreement being agreed by Parliament, during the implementation period the current rules on reciprocal healthcare will continue until December 2020. The rights of UK nationals living in the EU, and who fall within the scope of the Withdrawal Agreement, will continue to be protected after December 2020, for as long as these individuals remain in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement. This includes state pensioners already benefiting from that cover.

In the event that the UK exits the EU without a deal, EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay and continue to access in country benefits and services, including healthcare, on broadly the same terms as now. This demonstrates the UK Government’s ongoing commitment to citizens and removes any ambiguity over their future. We are engaging with EU counterparts to urge them to make the same commitment to protect the rights of UK nationals in the EU.

The reciprocal healthcare system requires reciprocity from the EU or individual Member States and cannot be protected unilaterally. The UK Government is seeking agreements with Member States, so that no individual, including retired UK citizen living in other EU Member States, will face sudden changes to their healthcare cover.

The Government has published updated advice for UK persons resident in countries in the European Economic Area as well as for those wishing to travel to such countries with specific information on potential changes to access to reciprocal healthcare and precautions they may wish to take in the event of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

General information is available on the GOV.UK website and country-specific advice can be found under the relevant sections of NHS.UK as well. This includes guidance for UK citizens living in European countries and suggestions on alternative arrangements they may wish to make, should existing arrangements such as the European Health Insurance Card scheme cease, which appears as a section under the profile of each individual country.

The information provided on these pages will be updated in light of new developments and changing circumstances.

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