Moving to or visiting the UK when you have a primary immunodeficiency

Relocating to another country can be challenging; more so when you have a primary immunodeficiency (PID), with the need to consider the treatment and management of your condition in the country that you will be moving to.

Our top tip for anyone moving to the UK is to plan ahead. If you are under the care of an immunologist where you live now, then contact the centre you are likely to attend once you move to the UK, to discuss continuing your treatment and monitoring. Early communication with an immunology team in the UK will reduce the likelihood of your treatment being stopped until you are able to see a doctor after you move. See the section ‘Finding an immunologist’.

If you have medical insurance in your home country, you may wish to check whether it can be extended to cover your stay in the UK.

Registering with a GP

Under current rules, anyone can register with a GP practice in England and receive free primary care. In fact, registering with a GP is mandatory before any free medical treatment, other than emergency treatment, can be accessed.

A GP practice can only refuse an application to join its list of NHS patients on reasonable grounds; for example, if the practice’s lists are closed to new patients or the applicant lives outside of the practice’s boundary area. A list of GPs and further information about registering with a practice can be obtained via the NHS website.

Hospital treatment

If your move to the UK is permanent, you’re entitled to free NHS hospital treatment. Like all UK residents, you’ll have to pay some NHS charges (e.g. prescription charges), unless you are exempt from these. Different rules apply if you’re visiting the UK temporarily. If there’s a waiting list for the treatment you need, you’ll have to join the waiting list. The hospital may ask you for evidence that you live in the UK permanently, such as proof that you have bought or rented a property in the UK.

Emergency treatment

Regardless of your residential status or nationality, you’re entitled to free emergency NHS treatment from an accident and emergency (A&E) department or an NHS walk-in centre for treatment of specified infectious diseases or conditions caused by torture or violence.  

Finding an immunologist

The British Society for Immunology website includes a map that allows you to click on different regions of the UK to find immunology departments and consultants. It also gives information on whether the centre is UKPIN registered and has clinical pathology accreditation – both indicate that the centre works to high standards.

The Regional Immunology Service of Northern Ireland provides a consultation service for inpatients both of the Belfast Trust and also of other hospitals in the region. Its website gives contact details for appointment enquiries, the administration team and the immunology nurses.

Planned treatment

If you are coming to England for planned treatment, such as immunoglobulin therapy, you will need to make arrangements in advance, even if you currently live in the European Economic Area (EEA).

You can access planned treatment in England by obtaining form S2 from your healthcare provider, or you can seek agreement from the provider that it will reimburse you for any healthcare purchased in England.

Paying for UK healthcare

You might need to pay a healthcare surcharge (known as the immigration health surcharge) as part of your immigration application. The government website provides information on this surcharge.

Private medical insurance

You cannot take out private medical insurance as an alternative to paying the healthcare surcharge, because the surcharge is a mandatory fee included as part of your visa application. It is a personal decision whether you also have private medical insurance. You may wish to consider private medical insurance to cover the following potential health-related costs:

  • Costs incurred returning to your home country for treatment
  • Private medical treatment.

If you have NHS treatment and you have not arranged insurance, you will be charged at 150% of the standard NHS rate, unless an exemption category applies to either you or the treatment.


A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover you for treatment that becomes necessary during a visit to England until you return to your country of origin. It will cover you for the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions but do bear in mind that the healthcare system in England may be different from that in your home country.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare, repatriation or lost or stolen property. Therefore, it is important to have both an EHIC and a valid travel insurance policy.

Types of visas

You may need a visa to come to the UK. This part of the government website enables you to see what kind of visa you might need. The need for a visa depends on which country you are coming from and your reason for coming to the UK.

Individuals that live in the EEA

If you are not ordinarily resident in the UK, you are considered to be an overseas visitor and may be charged for NHS hospital services. It is strongly recommended that you take out sufficient health insurance to cover your stay.

Visiting family members when you are not living in the EEA

You need a family visa to live with a family member in the UK for more than six months. There is a cost for applying for a family visa, which you can find out here.

You might also need to pay the immigration health surcharge as part of your application.

All non-EU citizens will require comprehensive medical insurance to cover their visit.

Work visas

When you apply for a work visa you will also need to pay for UK healthcare. You still need to pay even if you have private medical insurance.

If you are coming to England as a posted or a frontier worker, you will need to check with the relevant authorities in your home country about whether they are responsible for your healthcare costs in the UK. You need one of the following:

  • Form A1 – proof that you pay National Insurance contributions in your country, and an EHIC
  • Form S1 – issued in your country.

Once you have the relevant forms, register them with the Overseas Healthcare Team. Send a copy of your forms to:

Overseas Healthcare Team
, Department for Work and Pensions, Durham House
, Washington
Tyne and Wear, 
NE38 7SF.

If you have a work visa, then you will have the same rights as a UK resident and will be able to get immunoglobulin therapy.

Reciprocal agreements

The UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements with several countries, as well as member states of the EU. More information on reciprocal agreements can be found here:

The details of the reciprocal agreements may change from year to year, so please check the latest position with your local health advisory and travel services.

Helpful links

Guidance on implementing the overseas visitor charging regulations

Guidance on overseas visitors’ hospital charging regulations
Note: At the time of writing the UK remains a full member of the EU. This information will be updated once the UK leaves the EU.

Posted May 2018