As the EU continues to expand, allowing freer movement between the member states, medical tourism also continues to increase, as many jet off to a country where they can receive affordable, quality medical treatment. But can an EU citizen woman come to the UK and give birth free of charge?
Establishing Eligibility for Free NHS Treatment
NHS (National Health Service) healthcare is offered free of charge to UK citizens and residents alike. Entitlement rests on the county of residence, rather than citizenship. However, it does not offer automatic rights of free treatment for citizens, even other EU citizens, who come over to the UK with the sole purpose of giving birth. Each hospital treating pregnant women must make sure that the patient is fully entitled to free NHS treatment.
To qualify for free NHS medical treatment as an EU citizen, the patient must prove that they are ordinarily resident in the UK, which means they must be settled in the UK legally. If there is evidence of UK residence, there is no qualifying waiting period for women before they receive antenatal and postnatal treatment on the NHS.
Reciprocal Agreement with the UK
Some EU member states that have a reciprocal medical agreement with the UK in turn offer free NHS treatment for non-resident EU citizen pregnant women who come to the UK to give birth. This reciprocal agreement only applies if the patient has been referred to the UK by their country of residence. If the woman comes to the UK without a referral knowing full well that she needed medical care, she will not usually be entitled to receive free medical treatment under the NHS.
Pregnant EU citizen women (except those referred under the reciprocal medical agreement) who come to the UK as medical tourists for the sole purpose of giving birth and then returning to their country of residence are highly unlikely to be entitled to free NHS medical treatment, even if they are married to a UK citizen. But if a woman pursues medical treatment in an NHS hospital, she may still receive treatment, but as a private patient. Private patients must pay for medical treatment.
Pregnant EU citizen women must establish eligibility to receive free NHS treatment in the UK. Non-UK citizens who are ordinarily resident in the UK are entitled to free treatment once they have registered with their GP upon arrival in the UK. However, EU citizens who visit the UK for the purpose of giving birth free of charge will not be able to do so, unless they have been referred under the reciprocal medical agreement of their country of residence.