What is a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and why get one?

GHIC is a free card issued by the NHS that entitles you to emergency state-provided healthcare when you’re visiting an EU country or Switzerland

Graham Morley

28 September 2022

In January 2021, the UK government launched a new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to replace the old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which became obsolete after Brexit.

Like its predecessor, the GHIC entitles UK citizens to free emergency medical treatment in any EU country or Switzerland (but not including Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein).

It's free to apply for a GHIC, and they last for five years so even if you don't have any immediate plans to travel to Europe it's still worth registering for one.

What the GHIC covers

The GHIC automatically entitles you to emergency state healthcare if you're visiting an EU country. This means you'd get the same level of care and treatment that's available to citizens of that country, including:

It's important to note that in some countries you may be charged a fee for these services similar to the residents of that country. You may also be asked to pay for treatment upfront and apply for reimbursement later on.

What the GHIC does not cover

The GHIC is intended to provide emergency treatment and care in state-run healthcare systems; it is not a replacement for Travel Insurance so you should still take out adequate cover even if you have a card.

In particular, GHIC will not cover:

Which countries accept the GHIC?

You can use a GHIC in any EU country, plus Switzerland.

The current full list of countries is:

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, Switzerland, Sweden

The UK government have announced that more European countries may be added to this list in future.

How to apply for a GHIC

All UK citizens who are registered with the NHS are eligible for a free GHIC. You can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website.

You'll need your National Insurance number and you may also be asked for your NHS number if you live in England or Wales (or your CHI number if you live in Scotland or your Health and Care number if you live in Northern Ireland).


If you're travelling to an EU country you should always carry a GHIC because it could help you to access free emergency healthcare.

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