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The Maltese healthcare system is well-known for being modern, efficient and accessible, but it’s important to know what care you’re entitled to and how to access medical treatment when you need. As the rules differ for temporary and long-term visitors, you’ll need to keep up-to-date with changes to the relevant regulations.
Healthcare if you’re a temporary visitor to Malta
UK citizens can use a valid European Health Insurance Card if they are visiting Malta temporarily. A temporary stay is usually considered to be three months or less, so you should be able to use a valid EHIC for any trips which are shorter than this.
When you present a valid EHIC, you should receive free or subsidised medical care. However, the EHIC doesn’t cover all of the fees you may be charged. You may still have to pay a contribution for the care you’ve received and there are some services which aren’t covered by the EHIC scheme at all. These include:
- Private healthcare
- Transport back to the UK
- Cosmetic treatment
- Any treatment which can be postponed until you return to the UK
- Search and rescue services
In order to ensure you can access comprehensive medical care without receiving a large bill, UK citizens are advised to take out travel insurance before they visit Malta, even if they are only staying in the country temporarily and have a valid EHIC.
Whilst your EHIC is still valid, travel insurance will help to limit any costs you may still incur and, depending on your policy, may cover services which the EHIC scheme does not.
However, your EHIC will only remain valid until the UK leaves the EU. After this, the rules may change and UK citizens may not be able to use European Health Insurance Cards to obtain free or subsidised treatment. In this scenario, it’s vital that you take out comprehensive travel insurance, otherwise you will be required to pay for the full cost of treatment.
If you’ve forgotten to bring your EHIC with you, there’s no need to panic. By contacting the UK Overseas Healthcare Services, you can obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). This confirms that you’re eligible to receive treatment under the EHIC scheme and can be directed by the hospital you’re in, if necessary. To obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate, you will need to contact the Overseas Healthcare Services between 8am-6pm UK time, Monday-Friday, on:
Calls from within the UK: 0191 218 1999
Calls from outside the UK: (+44) 191 218 1999
Getting emergency medical help in Malta
In a life-threatening situation, you can call 112 from any phone to access emergency assistance. Just like calling 999 in the UK, 112 will connect you to emergency dispatchers who can send an ambulance, police and/or fire brigade to your location.
If you are seriously unwell or injured and you require urgent, life-saving treatment, you will be transported to hospital via ambulance. You can also attend a hospital emergency room directly if you require urgent assistance.
When receiving treatment, it’s important to confirm that you would like to be treated at a state-run hospital. Private treatment isn’t covered under the EHIC scheme or under many travel insurance policies. If hotel staff or a travel rep arranges medical care for you, ensure they’re aware you would like to use the state healthcare system.
Currently, emergency care is free at the point of delivery in Malta, so you can access emergency medical help via a hospital whenever you need it. In addition, Malta has a reciprocal agreement with the UK which allows UK citizens who are staying in the country for one month or less to receive free medical care in Malta or Gozo. However, these arrangements may change and UK citizens are always advised to obtain travel insurance before visiting Malta.
Visiting Malta if you have an existing health condition
With a valid EHIC, you can obtain treatment for pre-existing health conditions when you’re visiting Malta. Providing you’re visiting temporarily, your EHIC will entitle you to treatment for pre-existing conditions for as long as the UK remains in the EU.
However, travel insurers don’t always cover the cost of treatment for pre-existing conditions. When you purchase a travel insurance policy, you’ll need to disclose any existing health conditions and check whether your insurer will cover the cost of associated treatment, if it’s required.
Bringing medication to Malta
If you have a pre-existing health condition, you may have been prescribed medication in the UK. If so, you may need to bring your medication with you when you travel to Malta. If so, it’s advisable to travel with a copy of your prescription and/or a letter from your GP confirming that the medication has been prescribed legally. You should also bring documents which confirm your identity so that you can prove that the medication is yours if you are asked to do so.
However, some medications are considered to be controlled substances and additional paperwork is required if you plan on bringing them into Malta. Before you travel, check whether any of your prescription medication is on the controlled list and, if it is, you’ll need to apply for a personal licence in order to legally transport it into the country with you.
Non-emergency hospital care when you’re visiting Malta
There are eight state-run, government health centres in Malta and Gozo and non-urgent health issues may be treated by doctors and nurses in these centres. If necessary, a doctor may refer you to the nearest hospital for further treatment.
If so, this treatment may be subsidised if you have a valid EHIC (for as long as the UK remains in the EU) or travel insurance policy. If you intend to rely on your EHIC or travel insurance, do make sure you’re referred to a state-run medical facility, rather than a private hospital or clinic.
Obtaining a prescription in Malta
If you’re prescribed medication when you’re visiting Malta temporarily, you will need to pay towards the cost. With a valid EHIC, patients of working age are usually charged 50% of the cost of the prescription, whilst older patients who are in receipt of a UK State Pension are typically charged around 10%.
However, if you collect prescription medication within three days of being discharged from a hospital in Malta, you are not usually charged anything.
There is at least one pharmacy in every town or village in Malta and they are typically open during usual shopping hours, which are 9am-1pm and 4-7pm, Mon-Sat. In addition to this, pharmacies tend to open on a roster basis for limited hours every Sunday. If you’re unsure where to present your prescription or collect your medication from, ask the doctor or nurse treating you and they will be able to advise.
Healthcare if you’re living and working in Malta
If you are staying in Malta for longer than 90 days, you will not be eligible to use a European Health Insurance Card in order to obtain free or subsidised medical treatment. Instead, you will need to apply for an RHA Entitlement Card. To be eligible to obtain an RHA Entitlement Card you must either contribute via national insurance to the Social Security Act or be exempt from contributing.
If you are granted an RHA Entitlement Card, you will be entitled to receive the same healthcare services as Maltese citizens. This means you’ll receive free or reduced-cost non-emergency medical treatment from state-run facilities.
However, the RHA Entitlement Card does have some limitations. There are certain services or medications which are not covered by the Card, such as long-term care, and it does not entitle you to treatment abroad. If specialist services are not available in a Maltese facility, you will not be able to use your RHA Entitlement Card to obtain treatment elsewhere.
Due to this, it may be advisable to take out additional private health insurance while you’re residing in Malta.
Alternatively, if you are working in Malta but you’ve been posted there by a UK-based company, the UK government may fund any medical treatment you require while you’re in the country. Your eligibility for UK-funded healthcare services abroad is often dependent on your previous national insurance contributions so you should check whether you’ll be entitled to this before you leave the UK. Both your employer and HMRC should be able to provide the details you need.
UK workers who are posted to Malta are also advised to obtain travel insurance, as treatment funded by the UK government may only be partially funded or restricted to some types of care. Furthermore, these funding arrangements may change when the UK leaves the EU, so travel insurance will be more vital than ever for UK workers posted to Malta.
Remember – UK workers will need to apply for an employment permit before they are able to work in Malta. If you successfully apply for an employment permit, you’ll also be given the right to reside in the country.
Healthcare if you’re studying in Malta
If you’re studying in Malta for a period of three months or less, you can use a valid EHIC to obtain free or subsidised healthcare services for as long as the UK remains in the EU. However, the limitations applicable to temporary visitors apply to students too, so it’s advisable to take out travel insurance before you leave the UK.
Students who are studying in Malta for longer than three months are not eligible to use an EHIC but can apply for a residency permit. If a residency permit is issued, you will need to either contribute to the system via national insurance contributions or prove you are exempt from doing so, in order to access healthcare services.
Even if you are eligible to receive state-funded healthcare services as a student, there are some exceptions, which means additional private health insurance may be advisable.
Obtaining healthcare as a pensioner in Malta
UK citizens who are of pensionable age and reside in Malta for longer than three months may be entitled to receive healthcare which is funded by the UK government. Usually, you’ll need to show that you are in receipt of a UK exportable pension or exportable benefit in order to be considered eligible for UK-funded treatment in Malta.
In order to do this, you’ll need to apply for an S1 Certificate of Entitlement via the UK Business Services Authority. If you’ve contributed to the UK system via national insurance or are receiving UK benefits or a pension, it’s likely you’ll be issued an S1 certificate of entitlement but it’s unclear how long the S1 certificate system will remain in use.
Once the UK leaves the EU, the S1 system may no longer be applicable and it may not be possible to obtain UK-funded healthcare services in Malta. Although arrangements have yet to be confirmed, you may instead be required to apply for ordinary residence in Malta.
To be eligible for ordinary residence status in Malta, you will need to leave in the country for more than six months of the year but approval isn’t guaranteed. The authorities have the discretion to accept or deny applications, so ordinary residence may not be granted even if you live in the country for longer than six months every year.
If you’ve lived in Malta for five consecutive years, you may be eligible to apply for a long-term residence permit. However, you must not have left the country for more than six consecutive months during these five years and you must not have left Malta for more than ten months in total.
Successfully obtaining residency in Malta is the first step to ensuring access to healthcare services. If you are granted residency, you can then either make contributions to the Social Security Act or prove your exemption status, and obtain healthcare services.
However, the regulations and guidelines regarding healthcare for UK citizens living in Malta may be subject to further changes. To ensure you’re able to access the medical treatment you need, it may be advisable to obtain private health insurance.