About getting medical help in Poland
Someone on TA asked “my daughter just e-mailed me from Krakow and said she’s not well. How can she see a doctor?” My immediate answer was to say she ought to check her travel insurance documents to get the phone number for the helpline … she does have insurance, right?
For all those who come to Poland without private insurance, and even those who do, here’s some advice about getting urgent treatment on a visit to Poland.
First off, there IS a national health service here, but it’s one you pay for unless you get treatment under a reciprocal agreement – which for Brits and other EU residents means the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). In Poland our national health service is called the National Health Fund, or NFZ.
So, you have an EHIC card and you know there’s the NFZ, but what next?
Basic medical care
In order to obtain basic medical care, you must visit a doctor who has signed an agreement with NFZ and present the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a substitute certificate. The basic medical care covers tests and consultation with a GP. The doctor may also send the patient to diagnostic tests, to a specialist or to hospital.
In the case of an accident, injury, childbirth, sudden illness or sudden deterioration of health, you must call an ambulance or go directly to hospital, in particular to the hospital A&E department (SOR). The medical transport is free of charge in such cases. The European Health Insurance Card or a substitute certificate must be presented in hospital.
Emergency ambulance service:
from landlines 999
from mobile phones 112
Doctors and hospitals in Poland are fine – not up to the standards of private hospitals, but by no means as bad as the British NHS these days! Private facilities, on the other hand, are excellent and often operate quite a variety of functions from one or two city sites.
For example, John is signed up with a company called LuxMed, who operate two health centres in Krakow, and have been able to run a number of tests on him. Getting appointments is quick and easy and can even be done on-line.
The standard of English is not perfect, but you’ll often find doctors and dentists have spent some time working in the UK or USA.
Krakow dentists – private ones – typically operate from small practices with a local centre for things like x-rays – you sort of pop out to get your x-ray – but we have a very good one-stop dental clinic in Nowy Sacz.
Before the dentist will administer anaesthetic you’ll need a clearance from a cardiologist.
For anyone coming to Poland, for anyone travelling full stop, insurance is a cost – but one which means you have someone to call if anything – ANYTHING – goes wrong. Whether the emergency is lost luggage, mossed flights or medical, you have a fall-back plan. Buy some!
This is what the NHS has to say about Poland:
Health providers who are working under the state healthcare scheme are marked with the NFZ logo.
Doctors surgeries are open from Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6pm. After 6 pm on workdays, weekends and on holidays a 24 hour-medical services is provided by various health units contracted by the NFZ. Addresses and telephone numbers of health units providing 24-hour-care are available from the NFZ.
Dentists often offer both, NFZ and private treatment. NFZ services therefore, might not be available everyday of the week and you should check with the surgery in advance. A list of free services and materials is also available in the dentist surgery. Non-standard services and materials are charged. For more information on dental services in Poland, contact the NFZ.
You will need a doctor’s referral to be admitted to hospital. In cases of sudden illness, accident or other emergencies however, a referral is not required.
Try to go to a hospital, which has a contract with the NFZ. During your stay in hospital operations, diagnostic tests and medicines are provided free of charge.
A prescription should be issued by a doctor who practices within the NFZ. Take your prescription and your EHIC to the pharmacist. Medicines are charged with
- a lump-sum price of 3,20 zł -in case of basic medicines
- 30% 50% of the price of a medicine -in case of supplementary medicines and
the full price in case of medicines, which are not included in the reimbursed drugs list.
- These charges are non-refundable in Poland but you may be able to seek reimbursement when you are back in the UK.
An ambulance is always free of charge in emergencies.
Your European Health Insurance Card will enable you to access state provided healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes free. It will cover you for treatment that is needed in order to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return. It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth.
How to claim refunds
Reimbursements are claimed from the NFZ office in Poland.
If you have had to pay for the cost of your care and have been unable to claim a refund during your stay in Poland you should contact the Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle) on 0191 218 1999 (Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm) on your return to the UK. However, this process will take longer than claiming for a refund in Poland.