Travelling from Ireland for healthcare in Europe


If you are ‘ordinarily resident’ in Ireland, you can choose to access healthcare in other countries in

  • The European Union (EU)
  • The European Economic Area (this includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland.

You are ordinarily resident if you are living in Ireland and can prove you intend to live in Ireland for at least 1 year.

Planned health care in Europe

If you are planning to get healthcare abroad, you can get it under the Treatment Abroad Scheme or the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.

  • The Cross-Border Healthcare Directive only covers treatments that are available in Ireland
  • The Treatment Abroad Scheme covers treatments that are not available in Ireland.

It is important to apply under the correct scheme. 

If a treatment is covered by the Treatment Abroad Scheme, you cannot get a refund for it under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.

The differences between the schemes are summarised below, with links to more detailed information.

Unplanned healthcare in Europe

If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can get unplanned healthcare if you become sick or injured while travelling in the EU, EEA or Switzerland. You cannot travel abroad with the aim of getting public healthcare.

Cross-Border Healthcare Directive

If you are entitled to health services that are publicly funded and available in Ireland, you can choose to get those services in another EU or EEA country under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.

The rules for the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive include:

  • The treatment abroad can be in public or private healthcare.
  • Some types of treatment need to be authorised in advance.
  • You pay for the healthcare and then apply for a refund.
  • You need the same kind of referral for healthcare abroad as you would for healthcare in Ireland, for example, from a GP (family doctor) or hospital consultant.
  • Travel costs and living expenses abroad are not covered.

Read more about the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.

Treatment Abroad Scheme

You may be able to use the Treatment Abroad Scheme to get the treatment in the EU, EEA or Switzerland if you are a public healthcare patient and if the:

  • Treatment is not available in Ireland, or
  • Treatment is not available within the usual time needed to get it, taking account of your medical circumstances

Other rules apply for the Treatment Abroad Scheme, including:

  • The treatment abroad must be in public healthcare.
  • Treatment must be pre-authorised.
  • You do not have to pay the healthcare provider abroad for pre-authorised treatment.
  • You must be referred for treatment abroad by an Irish-based consultant who is treating you as a public patient. You cannot refer yourself or be referred by a GP.
  • The Treatment Abroad Scheme may include travel costs for the patient and a travelling companion where appropriate

Read more about the Treatment Abroad Scheme.

Page edited: 19 June 2024