Emergency medical cards


An emergency medical card is a temporary medical card that is issued without a means test in certain emergency situations and is valid for 6 months. For example, you could be issued an emergency medical card in an acute medical crisis where you need urgent treatment that you cannot afford without a medical card. 


Only a healthcare professional (for example, a doctor or consultant) can apply for an emergency medical card for you. The application is reviewed by a Health Service Executive (HSE) medical officer.

If your application is approved, it can take 7 to 10 days to get your emergency medical card in the post. However, your card will be active straight away so you can get the care you need.

You will need to complete a means assessment before your emergency medical card expires. The HSE will write to you when you need to do this. The means assessment is for a full medical card for you and your family.

Terminal illness card

In some cases, the HSE medical officer can recommend a terminal illness card. These are given to people who are getting ‘end of life’ treatment. This means a prognosis of less than 12 months to live.

If you get a terminal illness card, it will never be reviewed and it will not expire.

How to apply

Only a healthcare professional can apply for an emergency medical card for you. They must include a detailed medical report with the application including your diagnosis, planned treatment and the prognosis (outlook).

For more information phone the National Medical Card Unit on (051) 595 129 or Locall 1890 252 919.

Page edited: 30 July 2019