You need to make sure you can access medical care when travelling around Europe – that’s where a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or your old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) helps.
Below, we discuss what an EHIC/GHIC is, why you need it and how to get it.
You require a GHIC if you need medical treatment or assistance when on a trip to Europe.
It serves as proof that you’re a UK resident eligible for treatment in a European facility that’s in a reciprocal health agreement with the UK.
It officially replaced the EHIC when we left the EU, although you can still use your old EHIC if it hasn’t expired yet.
The EHIC was first introduced in 2004, replacing the old E111 system for tourists. It’s a free card for residents in the European Economic Area (EEA) (except Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, where the EHIC hasn’t been valid since 2020).
The GHIC and EHIC are valid in medical facilities located in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.
Owning an EHIC or the new GHIC means you can receive medical treatment at an approved facility when you're abroad in one of these European countries.
The card tells foreign medical professionals about your identity and medical history. It also reduces the cost of medical expenses or makes them free of charge, depending on the country and facility.
You can apply for a GHIC through the NHS website. The GHIC is free, so you should avoid any websites that ask for payment.
It’ll take 10 days for your card to arrive in the post.
Your EHIC card will have an expiry date on the bottom right-hand side. When your EHIC expires, you must apply for a GHIC.
Your GHIC card will also have an expiry date clearly marked. It's valid for five years; after that date, you'll need to renew it.
You can’t use the GHIC or old EHIC for private medical treatment in the UK or abroad and you're not permitted to use them for any planned medical treatment abroad, such as giving birth.
Also, you're not permitted to use the card if you are relocating to work or study in the EEA or Switzerland.
Having the GHIC or old EHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance.
You should still buy a policy to make sure you're covered in the event of emergency and non-emergency medical treatment, and for other incidents like theft of belongings or cancellations.
The GHIC or EHIC works as a faster ticket to effective and safe treatment and reduces its cost.
If you require medical treatment when travelling on the continent, whether for a new or pre-existing medical condition, we advise that you seek out a facility that accepts the GHIC or EHIC.
If you don't get treatment from one of these facilities, you'll have to pay excess on medical costs abroad.
If you're a UK resident and are planning a trip, make sure you have a valid GHIC or EHIC as well as a comprehensive travel insurance policy and European cover.