The UK Global Health Insurance Card: A Complete Guide

Posted on Monday, 21 November 2022

European Health Card

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) was a feature of travel for Britons since 2004.

A EHIC guaranteed the holder necessary medical attention while in an EU member country, for free or at a reduced rate - provided through the nation's state healthcare system.

Global Health Insurance Card (UK): Do I need a GHIC card?

With the UK's exit from the European Union, the EHIC cannot be used by the majority of UK residents.

Instead, Britons will now be issued with a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which essentially works in the same way as the EHIC, but with some limitations.

Non-UK nationals living in the UK before 1 January 2021 can still apply for an EHIC.


What does a GHIC cover?

For UK citizens travelling to the European Union, the GHIC travel insurance card for health covers your necessary medical treatment, such as if you suddenly get ill or have an accident, the treatment for which, is not something which cannot wait until you return home.

As part of the arrangement, EU citizens will receive necessary medical care while in the UK, provided through the NHS - just as they did with the EHIC.

You can only use the EHIC or GHIC for state-run medical treatment.
If you end up in a private health centre or hospital, the likelihood is that you have to pay the medical bill yourself unless your travel insurance covers you.

Despite having ‘global' in the name, GHIC only covers travel to EU states.

Does a GHIC travel card cover medical treatment for pre-existing medical conditions?

If you require emergency treatment in Europe, for any pre-existing medical conditions, you would be covered by your GHIC card, provided the treatment was administered in a state-run medical facility and could not wait until you returned home.

You should also ensure that you have appropriate travel insurance in place to cover any pre-existing medical conditions. 

Pre-existing medical conditions can cover a range of conditions, some of the more common being heart conditions, diabetes, asthma and respiratory problems.

Diabetic? Find out all you need to know about taking insulin into a plane cabin.

Does GHIC only cover me for EU states?

Yes. GHIC does not guarantee necessary medical attention in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. You'll need to take out travel insurance with medical cover if you wish to travel to any of these countries.

You will be granted necessary medical care in Norway if you show a British passport.

How much is the GHIC / EHIC card?

The GHIC card (or EHIC equivalent for those legible), is free.

How do I apply for a GHIC?

You can apply for a GHIC card on the NHS website.

You'll need to provide the following details:

  • full name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • National Insurance or NHS number (England and Wales)
  • CHI number (Scotland)
  • Health and Care number (Northern Ireland)

Some websites charge a fee for helping people apply for a GHIC. However, these services are not necessary.

European Medical Care I Health Insurance

So with GHIC I don't need travel insurance?

You still need travel insurance because the GHIC only covers necessary medical care in EU states.

A GHIC won't cover you against missed flights, cancellations, theft of mobile devices etc. It also won't cover certain medical-related costs (see below).

Travelling to Europe on your holidays? Find out what countries are included in EU travel insurance and get a quote for single trip travel insurance.

If you’re planning more than one trip in a year, you could benefit from multi-trip cover.

Does GHIC cover private medical care?

No. In the event that private medical care is required (perhaps because it is the nearest care available), travel insurance would pay for this (assuming it's covered).

Without travel cover, the patient would need to pay for this care themselves.

Does GHIC cover repatriations?

No. If you need to be airlifted back to the UK after illness or injury, this cost would be met by your travel insurance (assuming it's covered). Otherwise the patient would need to pay for this care themselves.

Injured skier being taken down mountain by rescue team

Is my existing EHIC still valid?

Yes, as long as it has not yet expired. You do not need to get a GHIC until your existing EHIC is in-date.

You can apply for a new GHIC card up to 6 months before your current EHIC card expires.


Does every family member need a GHIC?

Yes. Everyone travelling in your family needs a GHIC. The parent or guardian of under-16s should apply on their behalf.

I'm a student studying in the EU. Can I get a GHIC?

Yes. However, the GHIC is limited to the period of your studies.

How long does it take to get a GHIC card?

It usually takes around 14 days to receive your GHIC card. However, the NHS website states that it’s currently taking longer than usual to process new UK EHIC and GHIC applications due to high demand.

If you are due to go on holiday to Europe, it is advisable to apply for your new GHIC card as soon as possible.

What if I have a valid EHIC or GHIC but forget to take it with me?

If you travel overseas without your card you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate if you need medically necessary healthcare.

You can get this certificate by calling Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 (0) 191 218 1999.

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