A new insurance card enabling UK travellers to access healthcare in the European Union has been launched.
Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC) became available on Monday as part of the UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU.
It replaces European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), which remain valid as long as they are in date.
Travellers only need to apply for a new cards when their EHIC expires.
The Department of Health and Social Care said both cards offer equivalent protection for “emergency and medically-necessary healthcare needs” when a UK resident is in the EU on a temporary stay.
GHICs can be obtained from www.nhs.uk/GHIC and are free of charge.
Travellers are advised to apply at least two weeks before their next trip.
Health Minister Edward Argar said: “Our deal with the EU ensures the right for our citizens to access necessary healthcare on their holidays and travels to countries in the EU will continue.
“The GHIC is a key element of the UK’s future relationship with the EU and will provide certainty and security for all UK residents.”
The NHS will continue to accept EHICs issued by EU member states.
People are being warned that an EHIC or GHIC is not a replacement for insurance.
Which? travel editor Rory Boland said: “The launch of the Global Health Insurance Card is good news for consumers after we warned holidaymakers in Europe could face eye-watering medical bills if a reciprocal healthcare agreement was not part of a Brexit deal.
“We have seen and reported a number of unscrupulous copycat websites charging people to apply for free GHICs, so anyone looking to apply must remain vigilant and only use the official NHS website.
“It is important to remember the GHIC covers fewer countries than the EHIC, so travellers should check they can use it before going abroad.
“We’d also advise holidaymakers to still buy travel insurance as soon as they book a holiday, so they are covered for other issues that may arise such as cancellations and lost luggage.”