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British expats living in Thailand and elsewhere overseas may soon be eligible for free National Health Service (NHS) treatment and prescriptions on visits to the United Kingdom, after a recent British Government consultation process.
The proposed change follows a recent in-depth government consultation on the NHS and its existing position with regard to providing services to migrants arriving in the UK.
Currently, to qualify for free treatment, all a person has to do is “live” in the UK, regardless of nationality, and it matters not that no national insurance contributions have been paid previously.
This means that many British citizens living overseas are not eligible, as qualifying for the NHS has long been based on place of residence rather than contributions paid over the years.
The Department of Health’s consultation and proposal paper states, “All expatriates who return to reside in the UK will resume automatic qualification to free NHS services. Some but not all will benefit from exemptions if they return on a visit.
“We intend to extend this entitlement to any expatriate or former UK residents who have an extensive record of National Insurance contribution, and for this to cover their full medical needs.
“Expatriate UK citizens who move to reside abroad currently lose their entitlement to free NHS treatment. They regain this if they return to live in the UK permanently but usually not when returning to visit.
“In line with the principle that everybody makes a fair contribution, we propose to confirm the entitlement of any person who has previously paid at least seven years of National Insurance contributions.”
If the proposal is approved, the new rules may be implemented some time this year.