/ Travel & Leisure

Will Ehic cards still exist after Brexit?

Ehic card

Passport, money and Ehic card have long made up the essential core of my ‘must not lose’ items when pottering around Europe on holiday. However, with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU what will become of my trusty Ehic card?

Often referred to as ‘the Ehic’, the European Health Insurance Card is free to obtain from gov.uk and provides free or discounted medical care in the 28 countries of the EU. This is based on an agreement between the EU’s member states and is a reciprocal arrangement, so EU citizens can use their cards in the UK, too.

For now, as with our other aspects of EU membership, the Ehic is usable, as the UK remains a full member of the EU. However, as the negotiations between the UK and the EU have now begun, its future is up for negotiation.

Protecting the Ehic

At Which?, we’ve been calling on the government to use the negotiations to enable UK travellers to be able to continue to have the protections the card provides when in Europe – and this week we received some good news.

On Monday, the UK government set out its negotiating offer to the EU for ‘safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU’. That included a very welcome commitment to seek an ‘ongoing arrangement akin to the Ehic scheme’ as part of the negotiations.

This is a good sign and we welcome the government signalling its intention in this area. Whether this will be delivered and exactly what the details of this arrangement will be depends on the negotiations themselves. So we’ll be keeping a keen eye on the progress of this issue, but at least it’s on the table.

EU travel after Brexit

This isn’t the only Brexit travel issue we’re calling on the government to deliver for consumers though. Other key issues, such as flight delay and cancellation policy, need to be addressed, as does the future arrangements of mobile data roaming and package holidays. We’ll continue to keep you updated as the negotiations continue.

Have you ever used the Ehic? Or have you ever been caught out from not having one when you needed it?


I have always taken medical cover when going to Europe for i believe this card dose not cover everything,
Scrap the card and as we go abroad take up medical cover and insist every one who come to England does the same this card is a farce for exploiting our NHS to people coming to this Great Country of ours
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Ann Swindale says:
2 July 2017

Please stop referring to England! We are, for now at least, the United Kingdom, we have visitors from other countries in Wales and Scotland too you know!

What a load of anti-EU rubbish. Majority of of people exploiting our NHS are non-European.
European and proud of it.

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The EHIC is provided under the auspices of the European Economic Area (EEA), not the European Union. I expect the government is going about protecting its validity for UK citizens in the right way but its continuation was not seriously in doubt. I believe it is more a case of offering a guarantee to the EU [as part of the Brexit bargaining] that EU residents after Brexit who are temporarily in the UK will continue to be eligible for health treatment within the limited capacity of the scheme.

Thirty-two countries in Europe participate in the EHIC scheme: the 31 member states of the EEA plus Switzerland. This coincides with the 28 member states of the EU and the four member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The UK will continue to be a member of the EEA after leaving the EU.

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My friend has, she had to get an emergency document from Ireland which was not easy as they are only open limited hours and rarely picked up the phone.

I have tried to use my Ehic twice, but the doctors didn’t recognise it (or chose not to recognise it), so I ended up paying for the consultations in full. I still carry it when I go abroad, though, you never know, but I don’t expect Brexit to make matters better.

I expect the doctors chose not to recognise the EHIC. Our doctors choose not to enquire, they treat everyone. Then they complain about lack of resources in the NHS.

EHIC card is of little value for minor problems and of no use for major ones. Friends without foreign travel insurance needed hospital specialist treatment when on holiday in mainland EEC. They have paid the first £10,000 bill, and are struggling to pay the second. The best truly comprehensive travel insurance for a week’s holiday abroad in EEC costs under £10 per head per day, much less per day for longer stays. Let other people’s experience be the best teacher. You can afford foreign travel insurance, however expensive it at first seems. You cannot afford to travel anywhere abroad without it.

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I think Which? would do better promoting all travellers have proper travel insurance including those visiting the UK. Which? should make be campaigning to make sure it is affordable and questioning unfair clauses.

Travel insurance provides a lot more cover than just health.

I totally agree with Alfa about the travel insurance. The overstretched NHS should not pay for anyone who is simply visiting this country.
When we go abroad and are ill or have to see a doctor we have to pay. I’m afraid that it should be the same for people who are not permanent residents of the UK.

Hazel says:
30 July 2017

I had a car accident in Spain some years ago and my hospital treatment was wonderful and totally without charge to me because I had my E111 with me. Marvellous

You can afford to travel to the UK without travel insurance from anywhere in the world knowing you will be treated without question. The NHS staff feel it is beneath them and are too detached from financial reality to be gatekeepers for the precious NHS. The NHS is like a sacred cow that everyone milks but only the UK taxpayer feeds and provides shelter for it.

A few years ago my partner broke his wrist in Spain when we were on holiday. He attended a public hospital and before they treated him they asked for his credit card. He showed them his EHIC and travel insurance but they would not proceed with treatment until he provided his credit card. He gave in eventually as he was in agony.

Contrast that with a Spanish tourist who breaks a wrist in the UK. They are treated without question as they should be if it’s an emergency..This reciprocal agreement is supposed to work both ways.- that’s what reciprocal means.

Did your partner end up having to pay for the operation on his wrist in a Spanish hospital, Paula?

I don’t know the situation across all the NHS bodies in the UK but in Norfolk there are three hospitals and it was recently reported in the local media that they are currently chasing £800,000 worth of debts incurred by foreign visitors who were not entitled to free treatment under the relevant reciprocal agreements. The hospital managements stated they always invoiced for treatment costs where applicable and followed up with debt collection proceedings in default. All three hospitals said they would not withhold or delay treatment in an emergency but they would pursue all cases where it was worth while.

One person owes over £46,000 so best of luck with that one! The NHS will probably have to settle for less.

Alan says:
22 April 2020

I did have to use the Ehic card when I collapsed at the airport in spain it did benefit me cause I was rushed to the nearest hospital and treated and discharged the next when I returned home a spanish girl e mailed my card details and that was the last I heard so my treatment was free