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If you’re planning on living, working or travelling in Poland, it is important to remember that the country’s healthcare system differs from that in the UK. Indeed, many of the services you would expect to receive from the NHS free of charge carry patient contributions, and you will need to factor this into your plans. The following information should give you an overview of the healthcare system in Poland.
Considerations if you’re visiting Poland
If you or a travelling companion are faced with a life-threatening emergency, call 112 immediately. Calling the number is completely free of charge and can also be used to summon the fire brigade and police service.
It is important to be aware that travel representatives or hotel staff may refer you to private services if you ask them to call a doctor. If you would like to be treated by state services, you will need to call 112 and ask to be taken to the closest state hospital by an ambulance.
Healthcare services up until Brexit
Emergency medical treatment will be offered to anyone that requires urgent care. However, you will subsequently be fully charged for any treatments if you do not own a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
At the moment, an EHIC will give you access to state-provided healthcare services in Poland either at a reduced price or, in some circumstances, for free.
To ensure that you have the requisite access to emergency funding in case of medical issues, you should purchase robust travel insurance. Remember that if you end up needing to access healthcare services you will need to retain paperwork and receipts provided by the hospital you were treated at. They may be needed by your insurance company.
It is also important to be aware that healthcare facilities requesting upfront payment are likely to be privately run and independent of the state’s healthcare system. An EHIC card will not cover these services.
In addition, an EHIC does not cover mountain rescue services, cruises, or the cost of being transferred back to the UK.
Be wary of travel representatives or hotels that offer special healthcare arrangements. Whilst they may tell visitors that any costs can be claimed back, they are likely referring to private insurance as opposed to the services offered under the EHIC scheme.
The overall healthcare system in Poland
In Poland, the healthcare system is universally free to people that pay national insurance contributions. This insurance also extends to their immediate family members who can also access state healthcare services.
Much like in the UK, national insurance payments are automatically deducted from workers’ salaries by their employer. A certain percentage of this deduction is put into the National Health Fund and is known as the Social Insurance Institution contribution.
The National Health Fund serves to finance insured people’s healthcare treatments. However, emergency medical services will be provided to people that need it, regardless of whether or not they are insured.
If third-country nationals require urgent treatment and are not signed up to healthcare, they may end up being charged for certain types of treatment. For non-emergency treatments, third-country nationals will need insurance in order to access free non-emergency treatments provided by the state. Indeed, anyone who is not registered with Poland’s healthcare service must attain private insurance.
Demonstrating your entitlement to EHIC
If you are unable to present your EHIC, you will need a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) to avoid being directly charged for healthcare treatments. To obtain this, you will need to contact Overseas Healthcare Services and ask them to send you a PRC that you can present to the hospital.
To contact Overseas Healthcare Services, you can call 0191 218 1999 from the UK or +44 191 218 1999 from outside the UK. They are available Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm UK time.
What to do if you have a pre-existing condition
Those with pre-existing conditions should purchase medical travel insurance before heading to Poland. Of course, it is important to inform your chosen insurance company of any pre-existing health issues so that you can obtain the right level of coverage for you.
If you possess an EHIC, it will be valid until the UK leaves the European Union. However, it is unclear at this point whether its validity will continue after Brexit, particularly if the UK leaves without a deal.
If you know that your pre-existing condition will need to be treated whilst you are abroad, consult your general practitioner (GP) in the UK about things you may need to do before you travel to Poland.
Of course, it is important to remember to take with you any relevant documents about your pre-existing conditions or regular medications you need to take.
If you are travelling with the primary aim of receiving special medical treatment, this will not be covered by an EHIC. You should consult your GP to learn more about going abroad for treatment in Europe, as there are a number of administrative considerations to take into account.
It is important to be aware that dental treatments are not covered by the Polish healthcare system and will be limited even in emergency situations.
If you require hospital treatment, a doctor will need to refer you. In this respect, Poland’s system is similar to the UK’s. Again, it is important to stress that you would like to be transferred to a state-run hospital as they will offer treatments free of charge.
You will need to present a valid EHIC or PRC even if you’re transferred to a state hospital, and you need to double check that you are not considered a private patient. Under the EHIC system, you will not have to present your travel insurance plan unless you decide to do so.
Services that will need a doctor’s referral include hospital treatments, specialist outpatient services, treatment for chronic illness, and therapeutic rehabilitation. Services that do not require a doctor’s referral include oncology, dentistry, psychiatry, venereology, and gynaecology and obstetrics.
What to do if you need a prescribed medicine
Prescriptions are charged at different price points depending on a person’s individual circumstances and the kind of product they need. For example, travellers using an EHIC card will be charged 50% of the medicine’s total cost if they are of working age. For pensioners, this percentage will be closer to around 10%. However, it is important to note that pensioners will need to declare that they receive a state pension from the UK government in order to access the lower rate.
Taking medicines with you
In some cases, special legal measures will affect your ability to take certain medicines abroad. This is because some prescribed products contain substances that are restricted according to the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act. If your vital medicines fall under this category, it is likely that you will need to hold a personal licence in order to take them abroad.
A number of special requirements also affect the kind of information you will need to take with you and how you intend to carry your prescribed medicines. For more information on the kinds of drugs that are restricted and how you should carry controlled medicines, you can visit the UK government’s website, GOV.UK.
Healthcare after Brexit
In the event that the UK leaves the European Union without securing a deal, it is likely that UK travellers’ access to healthcare in Poland will be affected. In this way, people planning on visiting Poland on or after the time that the UK exits the European Union should purchase travel insurance in the same way that they would do for a trip to a non-EU country.
Remember that, regardless of whether or not the UK secures a deal, an EHIC that has been issued by the UK will be valid up until Brexit occurs. At the moment, the UK government is working to strike a deal with countries in regards to healthcare provisions for UK nationals after the country leaves the European Union. Nothing is set in stone yet, and travellers to Poland will need to stay on top of unfolding developments as political circumstances change.
What to do if you’re working Poland
Healthcare up until Brexit
An EHIC does not provide cover for those intending to stay in Poland for more than 90 days. In this way, UK citizens that live or work in Poland will need to register for state healthcare in order to receive the kinds of treatment entitlements enjoyed by Polish nationals. Fortunately, UK nationals working in Poland will need to make national insurance contributions that will entitle them to state healthcare provisions in the same way that working Polish citizens are. This is because everyone in Poland in employment (including foreign nationals) is required to obtain health insurance.
If you are working, your employers will pay a contribution on your behalf to the National Health Fund. This means that your immediate family members will also be able to access free medical treatments when needed. These family members could include a spouse, child or parent if they live in the same household as you.
If you have been sent to work in Poland by a UK-based company, you may be entitled to health insurance funded by the UK. For more information on this, contact HM Revenue and Customs. More information about contacting them can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs
If you are a resident of Poland and pay a regular contribution to the National Health Fund, you will still have the same healthcare entitlements as Polish nationals after the UK leaves the European Union. Again, this is because the Polish healthcare system is structured so that everyone that makes National Health Fund contributions can claim free medical care. Your immediate family members’ access to state-run healthcare services will also remain unaffected.
If you do not make contributions to the National Health Fund, you will need to purchase private insurance to avoid large medical bills.
If you have been posted to work in Poland by a UK-based company, you will need to secure additional insurance in Poland. More than just being a way to safeguard your health, it is necessary as residents in Poland are required to possess either state or private health cover.
Once you have secured insurance and completed the residency application process, you will be issued with an identification number known as a PESEL. You will need to present this when registering at a health clinic.
What to do if you’re a pensioner living in Poland
Healthcare services up until Brexit
If you are living in Poland and receive an Employment Support Allowance, exportable UK Pension, or a different kind of exportable benefit, you could be entitled healthcare services covered by the UK government. To attain this kind of support, you will need to apply for something called an S1 form, which certifies your entitlement to coverage.
Details about S1 certification
An S1 certificate will help you to access healthcare in Poland, as well as your dependants. This certification will be valid up until the UK leaves the European Union, but it is not clear whether this will remain the case once Brexit has occurred. We will not know for sure until member states have reached conclusions about what their relationship with the UK will look like in the future. Until the UK has left the European Union, however, you can continue to apply for S1 certification.
To be eligible for S1 certification, you will need to have worked and paid contributions to the UK government or received UK benefits.
Applications for S1 certification can be completed via the Business Services Authority and application forms for Employment Support Allowance and exportable UK pensions can be obtained from the Department for Work and Pensions.
For more information about the kinds of Polish and UK benefits available to UK nationals living in Poland can be obtained for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Healthcare services after Brexit
If you are resident in Poland and make regular contributions to the country’s National Health Fund, you will be entitled to the same healthcare provisions as Polish nationals. You will also be able to register dependant people in your household for state-provided healthcare. If you’re self-employed, you can make payments into the National Health Fund in order to access treatment coverage.
Again, it is important to note that individuals unable to make payments into the state-run healthcare system will need to find private healthcare insurance. Unemployed individuals are able to access state healthcare services if they can prove that they have been employed for at least 365 days over the past 18 months. If this is the case, the country’s Labour Office will cover the costs of insurance contributions.
What to do if you’re a student
UK nationals studying in Poland can use their EHIC card to gain access to healthcare up until the UK leaves the European Union. After this point, they will need to purchase the same kinds of healthcare insurance as they would if they were visiting a country outside of the European Union.