When Brexit rules came into force last year, most Britons lost the use of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, these have since been replaced by the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).
But Britons who have recently applied for a GHIC for upcoming European holidays may be in with a slightly longer than usual wait for their new card.
In normal circumstances, a GHIC should take approximately 10 days to arrive from the point of application.
However, given the current delay, the NHS website warned it might take “longer than usual”.
In a status posted on Facebook, NHS Overseas Healthcare Services – which deals with renewing and issuing new GHICs – said: “People experiencing UK GHIC or UK EHIC delays.
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When should I apply for a GHIC?
According to the NHS website, people who hold valid, in date EHICs will be able to continue to use these until their date of expiration.
They should then seek to obtain a GHIC.
Anyone who does not have a valid EHIC can apply for a GHIC.
The NHS website states: “You can apply for a new card up to six months before your current card expires.”
There is no charge to apply for a GHIC, and Britons have been warned to avoid “unofficial websites” which charge a fee to apply.
What does the GHIC do?
You can use a GHIC to access “medically necessary” state-provided healthcare when visiting EU countries or Switzerland.
The NHS defines medically necessary healthcare as that which “cannot reasonably wait until you come back to the UK”.
Medically necessary healthcare includes things like:
- emergency treatment and visits to A&E
- treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition
- routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
- routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth
- oxygen therapy and kidney dialysis
However, not all state healthcare is free within the EU and Switzerland, and you may have to pay for services that you would get for free on the NHS.
The NHS added: “Your EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance.
“It may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs. Make sure you have travel insurance as well as your card.”