Skip to content

The GHIC

Article author's profile picture
Written by  Rebecca Goodman
5 min read
Updated: 14 Feb 2024

What is a GHIC?

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is a health insurance card designed to replace the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and give UK travellers some medical cover after Brexit. It’s a free card available for most UK residents.   

A traveler at the airport, passport in hand, looks for the check-in counter

What does the GHIC cover?

As with the EHIC, the GHIC entitles you to the same treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in the EU that locals are entitled to. 

In some cases, this means free medical care and includes:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E 

  • treatment for a pre-existing medical conditions

  • routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth 

  • oxygen and kidney dialysis

What doesn’t a GHIC cover?

The GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. For example, it doesn’t cover holiday cancellation, rescue or repatriation

It also won’t cover you for any medical treatment at a private hospital.  

Not all state healthcare is free in the EU either and you may have to pay for services that you’d get for free on the NHS. If you have travel insurance you should be able to recoup these costs.  

Where can I use a GHIC?

The following 27 EU countries are all covered by the GHIC: 

Austria 

Belgium 

Bulgaria 

Croatia 

Republic of Cyprus 

Czech Republic 

Denmark 

Estonia 

Finland 

France 

Germany 

Greece 

Hungary 

Ireland 

Italy

Latvia

Lithuania 

Luxembourg 

Malta 

Netherlands 

Poland 

Portugal 

Romania 

Slovakia 

Slovenia 

Spain 

Sweden 

Is there a difference between the EHIC, GHIC and E111?

There is little difference between the EHIC and GHIC, apart from the countries covered by them. 

The EHIC was previously called the E111, and it also covered some non-EU countries including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland which aren’t covered by the GHIC. 

Do I need a GHIC if my EHIC is valid?

No, you can use your EHIC until it expires.   

How do I get a free GHIC? 

To apply for a free GHIC, you’ll need to visit the official NHS website

There are several websites set up to look like the official one which charge you for getting the card, but you should never have to pay for the card.  

Who’s eligible?

You will need to be a legal resident of the UK to apply for a GHIC. If you have healthcare provided by an EU country or from Switzerland, you won’t be eligible. 

When should I apply?

It takes around two weeks to receive a GHIC after you apply but you can apply for one up to nine months before your existing card expires. The expiry date is shown on the card. 

How do I apply? 

You’ll need to visit the official website to apply for a GHIC and enter some personal details, including your address, full name, date of birth, and National Insurance or NHS number. You will never have to pay for the card and after you’ve filled in the application it should arrive within around two weeks. 

How does a GHIC work and how long does it last?

The GHIC lasts five years and it gives you access to the same medical treatment as a person living in an EU country. This means if they would receive free medical treatment at a state-run centre, you will be able to access this too. However, some countries charge for state-run healthcare, and if this is the case you will have to pay even if you have a GHIC, but it’s likely to be less than the cost of private treatment.   

Do my family members also need a GHIC?

Every family member will need their own GHIC, parents or carers of those aged under 16 can apply for them.   

Do I need a GHIC if I’m not a UK national living in the UK?

If you’re an EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein national living in the UK, you may be able to apply for a new UK-issued EHIC

Other nationals can apply for a GHIC but will have to provide proof of UK residency. More information on how to do this can be  found on the NHS website

What happens if I don’t have my GHIC with me?

If you’ve travelled to Europe without your GHIC or EHIC and need treatment, you can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to healthcare. 

You'll need to apply for a PRC by calling NHS Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 (0)191 218 1999. If you need it outside opening hours, you should call as soon as possible the next working day. The PRC will give you the same cover as an EHIC or GHIC until you return home.  

You'll need to provide: 

  • Your name  

  • Your address 

  • Your date of birth  

  • Your National Insurance number 

  • The name of the hospital  

  • The email address for the department providing your treatment 

As a GHIC or EHIC only covers you for some medical expenses at state facilities, it may be a good idea to take out travel insurance too. As well as full medical cover, travel insurance also includes flight delays and cancellations, lost or stolen baggage and repatriation. Read our travel insurance guide to learn more. 

Can I use a GHIC if I'm pregnant?

If you are pregnant and need routine or emergency treatment while in the EU, you can use a GHIC. However, it doesn’t apply if you’ve specifically gone abroad to have your baby. 

What if I'm asked to pay upfront or my GHIC is refused?  

In some countries, you’ll be expected to pay for the treatment upfront then apply for reimbursement. If this happens, make sure you keep all the paperwork. In others, treatment won’t be free, and you’ll need to make a non-refundable contribution to your care.    

If you have a valid GHIC you have the right to insist it is accepted. If your card is refused you should contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services to claim a refund.   

Do I still need travel insurance if I have a GHIC?

The GHIC only covers you for state-medical provision and you may still have to contribute towards the costs. That’s why you should also take out travel insurance which also provides cover for repatriation, private treatment, and theft or loss of your belongings. You are also covered from the moment you buy travel insurance in case the holiday company goes bust. 

It’s quick and easy to buy travel insurance but it’s crucial to compare costs, which you can do with MoneySuperMarket.    

What do I need to apply for a GHIC card?

You will need to create an account and log-in at the Government website. You can then apply for a GHIC for yourself, your partner and any dependents you have.

You’ll need to provide the following information: 

  • Your full name

  • Your address 

  • Your date of birth

  • Your national insurance or NHS number in England and Wales, your CHI number in Scotland, or your Health and Care number in Northern Ireland 

If you need a replacement GHIC because your card is lost, stolen or damaged, you should email nhsbsa.ghicenquiries@nhs.net

What if I want to travel and I don’t have a GHIC?

It's always a good idea to apply for a GHIC if you don't have one. It’s straightforward and free to apply.  

However, a GHIC can only provide you with so much cover. A GHIC or EHIC only covers you for some medical expenses at state facilities. 

It may be a good idea to take out travel insurance before you go abroad, even if you have a GHIC.

As well as full medical cover, travel insurance also includes flight delays and cancellations, lost or stolen baggage and even repatriation. Read our travel insurance guide to learn more.

Looking for travel insurance?
Get a quote now