We are planning a trip for my family to visit us in the UK (England specifically). They will come on a standard visitor visa. One of my family members has a heart condition which means they have an increased chance of needing to go to hospital during their stay.

Of course, we are planning on buying health insurance. This made me wonder though, what happens if we don't have health insurance? What level of care would be provided? Will there be a fee? If so, how much? How is it paid? What if one does not pay?


1 Answer 1


The Government has a page about this aimed at visitors at:

But it doesn't cover what exactly happens in the can't pay/won't pay scenario.

Treatment in A&E (what Americans would call the ER) is free. However A&E only handle the immediate stabalisation/treatment resulting from an accident or emergency. Admission to hospital is normally chargeable and so are follow-up outpatient appointments.

Similarly if you see a GP, the services from the GP themselves is free, but services they refer you for generally won't be.

There are exceptions, some services are free including most infectious disease treatments. Some countries also have reciprocal agreements with the UK that may cover healthcare that would otherwise be chargeable.

If you have to pay then according to the government you will be charged at "150% of the national NHS rate". I have no idea how one would go about finding out what the "national NHS rate" is.

I'm fairly sure the NHS won't withhold urgent healthcare or lower it's treatment standards because of the inability to pay. However failure to pay debts to the NHS is likely to be used as grounds to refuse future visas.

  • Interesting, thanks for this answer. If you can, can you please edit your answer to include how any bills should be paid? Are they sent by post?
    – Xnero
    Dec 20, 2021 at 10:40
  • 2
    The National Tariff can be found at england.nhs.uk/publication/…. Most NHS trusts are inefficient at collections (see assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/…, typically ~ 50%). Already granted entry clearance/permission can also be cancelled if NHS debt is found to be unpaid, see assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/….
    – Calchas
    Dec 20, 2021 at 12:26
  • Treatment in A&E isn’t free - you get the treatment, but you are supposed to pay for it later. Some hospitals are bad at chasing this up. Worst case is usually that if you ever try to go back to the UK, you will be asked at the airport to either pay your unpaid bill or return home.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 21, 2021 at 15:07

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