If you wish to receive medical treatment outside Northern Ireland, it’s important to understand how it works and the assistance you may be able to access.
This guidance applies to patients who are travelling outside Northern Ireland to access healthcare assessment and/or treatment. It is not relevant for travel within Northern Ireland for health and social care services.
Note: your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is for emergency treatment that becomes necessary while you are outside the UK. It does not cover planned treatment – also known as elective treatment.
There are three main ways by which patients may receive planned (not emergency) treatment outside Northern Ireland:
This is known as an Extra Contractual Referral (ECR) and occurs when the Board approves a consultant’s request to transfer a patient to a provider outside Northern Ireland for assessment or treatment which the consultant considers necessary but which is not available through HSC (i.e. NHS) facilities locally. Find out more about transfer for treatment by the HSCB
The S2 (or E112) route is one where an individual seeks access to state-funded treatment in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland. It is not suitable for treatment outside Northern Ireland in another part of the UK. Find out more about S2 (E112) mandated treatment
The cross border healthcare route is one where an individual (i.e. not the Health and Social Care Board or the HSC Trust) seeks access to treatment in another European Economic Area (EEA) country in either the state or private sectors. Unlike other options, this arises where the Board considers treatment is available locally or within the rest of the UK within a medically/clinically appropriate time period, but a patient has nonetheless opted to seek treatment elsewhere. Find out more about the EU Directive on cross border healthcare
Your entitlement to financial reimbursement will depend on the route used.
Please note that the summary details given here are not exhaustive and you are strongly urged to contact the HSCB for advice before travelling or arranging any treatment.
The Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare (CBHD), will continue to apply to the United Kingdom until the end of the transition period (31 December 2020). Patients will be able to apply to use the CBHD until then.
At the end of the implementation period the CBHD will no longer apply to the UK unless the UK comes to an agreement with the EU on this matter. However, transitional arrangements for patients from Northern Ireland whose treatment has been, applied for, authorised or commenced, on or before the end of the implementation period have been provided for and they will be able to complete their treatment and seek reimbursement in the event of no UK/EU agreement being reached on the CBHD.
This means applications received by the Board on or before 31 December 2020 will be processed under the Cross Border Directive route and if approved, patients will have nine months to submit receipts as proof of payment to claim reimbursement.
If you are planning to have your prescription dispensed in another EEA country then there are certain criteria that need to be on your prescription form.
The criteria are set out in the Annex to Directive 2012/52/EU which can be accessed on the Department of Health’s website
The EU Commission website provides more information about cross border care including a short video, questions and answers, and contact details for the National Contact Point in each country.
If you are a resident in Northern Ireland seeking to travel elsewhere for treatment or, alternatively, if you are a non-resident interested in treatment in Northern Ireland please contact:
National Contact Point
Health and Social Care Board
12-22 Linenhall Street
Belfast BT2 8BS
T: +44 (0)28 9536 3152
The HSCB has a patient travel office which provides assistance for approved patients who are travelling outside Northern Ireland for planned treatment.
If you are travelling for planned treatment outside Northern Ireland contact the HSCB patient travel office. Patient travel officers can provide you with assistance and advice:
T: 0300 555 0116