Healthcare rights for patients: what’s at stake after Brexit?

The Brexit Health Alliance outlines the risks to UK and EU citizens' healthcare rights if Brexit negotiators don’t agree a deal by 31 December 2020.

7 August 2020

Read Healthcare rights for patients: what’s at stake after Brexit? External link icon

Citizens’ rights to healthcare and to social security benefits are just one of the topics being negotiated currently between the UK and the EU, to decide a new relationship that will take effect from 1 January 2021.

New arrangements will need to be in place by then, including rules on what rights UK citizens will have if they fall ill while travelling or living abroad in an EU country.

The Brexit Health Alliance is calling for an urgent deal to protect patients’ rights, so that UK and EU citizens will continue to benefit from rights to healthcare at local, affordable cost when working, living or travelling in the EU member states and the UK.

This briefing outlines what the UK and EU are asking for in the negotiations, and explains who will – and who won’t - be covered for healthcare after 1 January 2021.

What’s at stake

  • Failure to reach an agreement on reciprocal healthcare cover for urgent, unplanned treatment will require agreements with each individual EU country, who may or may not be inclined to agree.
  • The cost of life-sustaining treatments such as dialysis not covered by travel insurance and without reciprocal healthcare agreements will make travel in the EU out of reach for many.
  • The NHS will face unwelcome increased resourcing burdens to handle more complex administrative and funding procedures when providing care, if well-established systems for reimbursement between member states are not maintained.


The BHA has also produced an infographic showing six different scenarios in which people may have to pay privately for healthcare after 31 December 2020 if the UK and the EU don’t agree a deal.

Download the infographic.