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If you’re travelling to Sweden, it’s important to know how to access medical care when you’re in the country. Whether you’re heading there for a short break, an extended holiday or plan to emigrate to Sweden, identifying the appropriate healthcare resources is vital.
Healthcare during a temporary stay in Sweden
If you’re visiting Sweden temporarily, for a period of fewer than three months, you should be able to use a valid EHIC to obtain subsidised healthcare while you’re there. The European Health Insurance Card enables UK citizens to access free or reduced-cost healthcare when they’re in another EU country temporarily.
For as long as the UK remains in the EU, you can show your EHIC at state-run medical facilities and obtain the treatment you need at a reduced cost, providing your EHIC is valid.
However, an EHIC won’t enable you to obtain subsidised treatment in every instance. In the following circumstances, a valid EHIC won’t entitle you to reduced-cost medical treatment:
- If you travel to Sweden with the intention of obtaining medical treatment or giving birth
- If your treatment can be delayed until you return to the UK
- If you receive treatment aboard a cruise
- If you require search and rescue teams to locate and treat you
- If you require medically assisted transportation back to the UK
- If you receive treatment in a private facility
Due to these limitations, people visiting Sweden from the UK are advised to take out travel insurance, even if they have a valid EHIC.
Once the UK has left the EU, it is unclear whether UK citizens will still be able to use an EHIC in Sweden or in other member states. In the event that UK citizens are no longer eligible to take part in the EHIC scheme, you will need to take out travel insurance in order to claim back any costs relating to medical treatment you’ve received while you’re in Sweden.
Getting medical help in Sweden
If you require emergency help whilst you’re in Sweden, you should dial 112 from any phone. This is a free call and will put you through to the emergency services, who can dispatch an ambulance, the police or a fire brigade.
In some Swedish locations, there is a charge for calling out an ambulance or medical helicopter. However, these fees are capped and are usually around SEK 200-400.
If you are transported to hospital via an ambulance, you should ensure that you are taken to a state-run facility. If you obtain medical treatment at a private hospital or clinic, your EHIC will not be applicable and you won’t be able to claim back any costs.
If your situation is not an emergency but you need medical advice or help finding an appropriate medical facility, you can contact 1177 for 24-hour medical advice and assistance. As well as speaking with medical professionals, the 1177 service can help you to locate the nearest state-run hospital, surgery or clinic, if you require treatment.
If you are referred to a hospital by a doctor, you can use a valid EHIC to obtain treatment for as long as the UK remains in the EU. However, you’ll need to ensure you’re treated at a state-run facility and that you’re not registered as a private patient.
Travelling to Sweden with a pre-existing condition
If you have an existing health condition and you travel to Sweden, you will still be able to use a valid EHIC to obtain reduced-cost medical treatment at state-run facilities. However, this will only apply until the UK leaves the EU.
UK citizens with pre-existing health conditions are always advised to seek guidance from their doctor before travelling and to obtain travel insurance before leaving the country. As an EHIC doesn’t cover all situations and may not be valid for UK citizens after Brexit, obtaining travel insurance will be the only way to cover part or all of your healthcare costs in Sweden.
Travel insurers will want to know if you have any pre-existing conditions before they will offer you a policy, so you must declare any existing health issues or you could find that your policy is invalid.
Getting dental treatment in Sweden
Temporary visitors to Sweden can access dental treatment under the EHIC scheme but only if it’s urgent and cannot be postponed until they return home. Even when using a valid EHIC, you may have to pay a portion of the treatment costs. For extensive work, for example, patients may be charged up to SEK 3,000.
If the full cost of treatment is between SEK 3,000 and 15,000, EHIC holders may receive compensation of 50% of this element of the charge. Similarly, any charges which exceed the SEK 15,000 cap can be compensated by up to 85%.
Obtaining medication in Sweden
You can only obtain medication from an authorised chemist in Sweden, regardless of whether it has been prescribed or if you want to purchase over-the-counter medicines. The cost of a prescription in Sweden depends on the medication you’ve been prescribed, so prices can vary considerably. However, costs are currently capped so you won’t be required to spend more than GBP 190 on prescription costs in one year.
Bringing medication to Sweden
If you’ve been prescribed medication in the UK and you’re travelling to Sweden, you may need documentation to prove that you’ve obtained the medication legally. For any prescription, it’s advisable to bring a copy of the prescription and/or a doctor’s letter, as well as documents which prove your identity.
Some medications are considered to be controlled substances, however, and extra documents may be required. In some cases, you may need to obtain a personal licence in order to bring the medication with you into Sweden. Before you travel, check the controlled substance list for your destination so that you are able to travel with the medication you need.
When you’re travelling to Sweden from the UK, it isn’t just prescribed medication you need to think about. Many medications which are available over-the-counter in the UK are only available via prescription in Sweden. Due to this, you may not be able to bring in certain medicines you’ve purchased in the UK unless you have medical authorisation to do so.
Failure to comply with the relevant rules or failure to bring the correct documents could result in your medication being seized, you being prevented from travelling and, in serious cases, prosecutions. Due to this, you should check whether there are any restrictions relating to your medications in place in Sweden and make arrangements to obtain licences, if they are required.
Obtaining healthcare if you live and work in Sweden
If you work in Sweden or will be living in the country for more than three months, you won’t be considered a temporary visitor and different healthcare rules will apply. If you have successfully applied for a residency permit or are a permanent resident of Sweden, you will be able to access healthcare in the same way as other Swedish citizens. This means you can obtain free or subsidised state-funded healthcare, including dental treatment, although a nominal fee may be required for some services.
However, residency requirements do insist that you have travel insurance in place if you intend to stay in the country for more than one year. If you don’t have comprehensive travel insurance, your residency application may be refused.
If you work for a UK-based company but are sent to Sweden for work, any medical treatment you receive whilst in the country may be funded by the UK. However, you should confirm whether you’re eligible to receive this before you travel to Sweden.
Alternatively, your employer may provide a private health insurance policy which could cover some or all of the costs of medical treatment you receive in Sweden. Often, employees contribute to this each month and their employer pays the outstanding amount. If your employer requires you to work in Sweden, it is worth asking whether they will fund or part-fund an appropriate private healthcare policy so that you can obtain medical treatment while you’re in Sweden, if you need to.
Accessing healthcare as a student in Sweden
If you will be studying in Sweden for less than three months, you can use a valid EHIC to obtain necessary medical treatment as state-funded facilities. However, the same EHIC exemptions apply to students so it’s advisable to have a travel insurance policy in place as well.
Remember – there is no guarantee you’ll be able to use an EHIC when the UK leaves the EU. It’s important to keep up-to-date with changes to the Brexit process so that you’re aware of when the EHIC scheme will no longer be available to UK citizens. When this happens, you will need to pay for medical treatment in Sweden in full or obtain appropriate travel insurance so that your costs are reimbursed by your insurer.
If you will be in Sweden for longer than three months, you won’t be able to use your EHIC to obtain subsidised healthcare, regardless of whether you’re a student or not. Instead, you will need to apply for a residency permit. This should be done within three months of your course start date, although it is most sensible to make these arrangements before you leave the UK. As part of your residency application, you will be required to submit proof of a valid, comprehensive travel insurance policy, which will cover or reduce the cost of any medical treatment you need.
Accessing healthcare as a pensioner in Sweden
If you have been granted permanent residency or Swedish citizenship, you should be able to obtain medical treatment in the same way as other Swedish citizens. This means you’ll pay reduced fees for the treatment you receive.
If you’re in receipt of certain benefits, however, you could obtain UK-funded healthcare treatment while you’re living in Sweden.
In order to access UK-funded medical care as a pensioner in Sweden, you will need to have a valid S1 Certificate of Entitlement. If you’ve worked in the UK and paid national insurance contributions or you’re receiving an exportable benefit of pension, you should qualify for an S1 certificate and, therefore, UK-funded healthcare.
However, the applicability of S1 certificates may change when the UK leaves the EU. Due to this, you should assume that you won’t be able to rely on your S1 certificate to obtain UK-funded healthcare in Sweden unless it is confirmed otherwise.
When the UK leaves the EU, you may need to apply to be a registered resident of Sweden in order to be eligible to receive the same healthcare services as Swedish citizens.
Getting medical assistance in Sweden
There are many people who speak English fluently in Sweden, so it’s relatively easy to access medical help from English-speaking professionals. However, an interpreter can also be arranged if translation is required, so don’t be afraid to ask for help if a language barrier is preventing you from accessing or understanding your medical care.
It can be useful, however, to learn some medical-related Swedish words or phrases so that you can access help easily and quickly when you need it. The following terms may be helpful:
Accident & Emergency Department – Akuten
Chemist or pharmacy – Apotek
Hospital – Sjukhus
Ambulance – Ambulans
I need a doctor – Jag behöver en doctor
Prescription – Recept
To ensure you able to access help in an emergency, it may be useful to write these phrases down and keep them with you. In addition to this, you should be aware of your location and/or address so that you can tell emergency dispatchers where you are in the event of an emergency.
Whilst no one wants to get hurt or fall ill, these things can happen at any time and in any location. By understanding how the Swedish healthcare system works, the treatment you’re entitled to when you’re in the country and how you go about getting medical help, you can be sure that you’ll have access to the most efficient and effective medical treatment if you require it.