Last updated: 23/04/2021
Any international travel will only be possible under governmental guidance and you should consult with your home unit and the unit to which you hope to travel on COVID-19 safety requirements and infection levels and quarantine requirements. We strongly recommend that you take out good travel insurance which includes COVID-19 protection.
EU travel only
Following a 4 year campaign by Kidney Care UK supported by many of you, the EU withdrawal agreement includes a reciprocal healthcare agreement. This means that people on dialysis are able to receive treatment in public units in EU countries free of charge, as you would in the UK. If you have an existing European Health Insurance card (EHIC) you can use this to have your treatment but if it is out of date you can apply for a new Global Healthcare Insurance card (GHIC), which does the same thing. Please be careful to use the official government website to apply for the card as it is free of charge and there are some scam sites which will try to charge you a ‘processing fee’.
This agreement only includes the EU states at the moment, and not Switzerland or the EEA/ EFTA States, which are Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. We have been advised that there are active negotiations on reaching a similar agreement, and there should be an update in the summertime. In the meantime for those wanting to travel to Norway, there is a special agreement so funded dialysis is possible.
The GHIC arrangement is not travel insurance and you should make sure you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy.
Cruises on dialysis
It is possible to receive dialysis on some cruises and have the cost of your treatment paid for, up to the cost which the NHS would pay for your treatment in the UK.
For people in England
- Cruise ships: Renal dialysis, or any other treatment required during a cruise, is not covered under any formal healthcare agreement held by the NHS in England, i.e. it is not covered under Article 56 or other bilateral agreements. However, NHS England has chosen to exercise its discretionary rights to reimburse the cost of healthcare on board cruise ships, subject to certain conditions:
- The treatment must be a regular long-term treatment for a chronic condition that the patient usually receives in an English provider and which is funded by NHS England.
- The patient will only be reimbursed either (a) the published NHS National Tariff or (b) the actual cost of the treatment, whichever is lower. The patient will be reimbursed by their usual renal unit and will need to supply original receipts and proof of payment when they return from the cruise.
- The patient must seek approval for the treatment in advance of their cruise journey from their usual renal unit.
- The treatment must take place within the boundaries of, or the majority of the cruise ports of call are to an EEA country, or a country with which the NHS has formal healthcare agreements, i.e. those covered under Article 56 or those countries with which England has bilateral agreements.
Since NHS England is reimbursing the cost of treatment and not commissioning the service, it is the patient’s responsibility to ensure that (a) the cruise company has any relevant clinical information about their treatment prior to booking their cruise and (b) the cruise company provides the patient’s usual provider with any relevant follow up information about the patient’s treatment on board the cruise ship. The patient must also ensure that they have adequate travel insurance for their journey since NHS England will only reimburse the cost of the agreed treatment and not any other health care costs. The patient will also need to check the quality of dialysis service provided on the cruise ship. NHS England will review its discretionary rights to fund treatment on board cruise ships from time to time.
For people in Wales
The Health Commission Wales may meet the cost of your dialysis onboard, please check with your Holiday Dialysis Co-ordinator. Patients usually do receive a reimbursement if their cruise is within Europe.
For people in Scotland
Your dialysis unit may meet the cost of your dialysis sessions, please check with your Holiday Dialysis Co-ordinator. Most dialysis units in Scotland meet the cost of the dialysis in full.
For people in Northern Ireland
Patients will be reimbursed up to the equivalent cost of their dialysis in their 'home' unit.