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What are the rules on accessing the UK health service if you live in Denmark?

If you're British and live in Denmark you will previously have been registered with the National Health Service, but once you move abroad things change - here's what this means for accessing UK healthcare both on a regular basis and if you have an accident or fall sick while on a visit back to the UK.

What are the rules on accessing the UK health service if you live in Denmark?
An NHS healthcare professional. Can Brits and other nationals who live in Denmark use the NHS when in the UK? File photo: Peter Nicholls/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The NHS is described by the British government as a “residence-based health service” which means that if you don’t live in the UK you’re not automatically entitled to NHS care, even if you are a British citizen and even if you still pay tax in the UK.

However funding, access and care rules can vary depending on your circumstances.

Moving to Denmark

All persons who are registered as resident in Denmark and have been issued with a personal registration number are entitled to all public health services.

In some cases, you can also use Denmark’s public health system if you are not a permanent or temporary resident of the country.

Here’s how to go about accessing Denmark’s health system after arriving in the country.

Denmark’s health services included under the public health system provide you with a family doctor or GP as well as free specialist consultations and treatments under the national health system, should you be referred for these.

It should be noted that, as previously reported by The Local, foreign nationals can experience extended waiting times on residence applications in Denmark. Since they may not have automatic access to the public health system during this time, some decide to take out private health insurance to cover the waiting period.

READ ALSO: Applying for residency in Denmark: Why you might need health insurance during processing period

Can I stay registered with my UK GP?

No, you need to have a local address to be registered with an NHS GP. In practice, many people don’t get around to telling their GP that they have moved and so stay registered for months or even years, but technically you should notify your GP so that you can be removed from the NHS register. 

Even if you do remain registered with a UK GP, they won’t be able to issue prescriptions for you in Denmark as most UK GPs are not licensed to practice outside the UK – therefore are not covered by insurance.

If you are on regular medication it may be possible for your GP to issue you with an advance stock of medication to cover you while you get settled in Denmark, but many prescriptions are limited to a maximum of three months.

What about travelling outside Denmark?

Once you’re registered in the Danish system you will be able to get a European health insurance card, the blå EU-sygesikringskort (blue EU health insurance card).

This covers medical care while on trips in Europe and basically the same as the EHIC you might have had while you were registered in the UK but it’s not issued automatically, you have to request it.

You must have legal residence in Denmark and be a resident of an EU country or the UK, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein to be eligible for the card in Denmark. The UK is included here under an agreement with the EU following Brexit. The card can be applied for here.

If travelling outside of Europe – for example, a holiday in the US – you need to ensure that you have travel insurance with full medical cover in case of any mishaps while abroad. 

What about trips back to the UK?

Although your day-to-day healthcare may be covered by the Danish system, there’s still the possibility or falling sick or having an accident while on a trip back to the UK. 

The Danish blue EU health insurance card covers all trips in the EU and European Economic Area, as well as Switzerland and the UK.

The card covers essential treatments that you receive while in the UK but not those which medical personnel deem can wait until you return home.

If you are charged for medical care while in the UK because you do not have a UK address, and think you should have been covered by the blue health card, you can apply for the costs to be refunded after you return to Denmark.

In practice, most UK nationals who need to use the NHS while on trips back to the UK report that no-one ever thinks to ask whether they are UK residents.

Some Brits living in Denmark may keep their registration with a UK GP and make regular trips back to get prescriptions, but while this can happen in practice it does involve lying or at least being economical with the truth about where you live.

Emergency care

There are certain types of NHS care that are not charged for, such as A&E treatment or treatment from paramedics, but if you need to be admitted to hospital you may have to pay.

NHS hospitals won’t turn you away if you cannot prove residency, but they may present you with a bill when you leave if you cannot prove either residency or health cover in a European country.

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Danish health authority does not expect more abortions if limit raised

The Danish Health Authority (Sundhedsstyrelsen) does not expect the number of abortions to increase, or for them to occur at a later time on average, if the current limit for the procedure is raised.

Danish health authority does not expect more abortions if limit raised

A political decision to raise the legal limit for free abortion in Denmark would not have the result of markedly increasing the number or timing of abortions, the Danish Health Authority said in a medical statement released on Tuesday.

The health authority released the statement after a majority in the Danish National Center for Ethics (Etisk Råd) on Monday recommended the country change its limit for free abortion from the current 12 weeks to 18 weeks.

The medical statement concludes that such a change to the rules is not likely to cause a higher number of abortions.

The most likely effect is that women who currently have abortions after week 12 of pregnancy would now do so based on individual decision, instead of after a special consultation with an advisory council, as is required under current rules.

In its statement, the health authority said that the majority of women who request abortions after week 12 under the current practice are granted permission.

READ ALSO: Danish ethics council recommends changing limit on abortion

“If it was decided to raise the limit for free abortion, it is therefore the expectation of the Danish Health Authority that this would not in itself lead to significantly more abortions – just that the decision on the matter would be taken by the pregnant woman herself and not by an abortion advisory council,” it said.

A higher limit could also mean some women undergo the procedure earlier because they would not have to wait on the council to make a decision, it added.

Between 14,000 and 15,000 abortions are carried out each year in Denmark, a number that has been declining since the 1970s and 1980s.

Some 79 percent of abortions are carried out before week 7 of pregnancy currently, according to the national health authority.

The Netherlands and Iceland have both raised their abortion limits without a subsequent increase in the number of procedures, it also stated.

The current limit of the end of week 12 of pregnancy “cannot be justified medically”, according to the statement.

No recommendation is given by the health authority with regard to a specific limit.

In the event that politicians decide to raise the limit, an advisory council will still be needed when abortions are requested after the new term, it also said. The council could also be given an advisory role for women considering abortions, it suggested.

The statement was requested by the Ministry of Health and will be used as a medical reference in forthcoming political talks and whether Denmark’s current legal limit for free abortion should be changed.