Did you know that Cyprus is carving out a niche for itself as a high-grade medical tourism destination? Which means that if you expatriate you will benefit from excellent medical care on your doorstep when living in Cyprus.
You can of course take out expatriate health insurance to ensure you never pay more than your excess for care and treatment – and you may very well be best advised to do so – but even if you don’t, you will find that medical care in Cyprus – both North and South of the Green Line – is highly affordable. In fact, medical care in southern Cyprus, is up to five times more affordable than in the UK.
When people think about medical tourism they generally assume it only relates to cosmetic procedures – but in Cyprus there is particular focus on offering dental treatment to international patients and there are even private fertility clinics, not to mention doctors in all areas of medicine who are happy to take on private patients.
As an expatriate living in Cyprus you have certain levels of free accessibility to healthcare thanks to reciprocal agreements between the UK and Cyprus – but usually these benefits only exist for a limited time and once you have settled in and fully relocated, it will be up to you to either get health insurance in place or pay your way for any treatment.
The good news is that you will get excellent medical care when living in Cyprus with all Cypriot doctors having studied and then practised in the UK, mainland Europe or the US – this is because there are no medical schools on the island. English is widely spoken by all medical staff, which makes British expats feel particularly at home, and procedures are likely to be state of the art and up to date as is the equipment used.
There are both state-funded and private hospitals in all of Cyprus’s major cities, as well as a network of smaller hospitals, clinics and dispensaries throughout the country. The hospitals and clinics are usually well-equipped and offer good quality services.
You might prefer private healthcare, as many expats do: it can give you access to a wider variety of hospitals and facilities, and considerably shorten the public sector’s occasionally long waiting lists. In this case consider what suits you best: the stability and flexibility of international private medical cover, or considerably cheaper premiums with a local private medical insurance company.
There are nationwide emergency services in Cyprus, which are notorious for being inconsistent and relatively slow. Some private hospitals have their own ambulance services, but charge for transporting patients.
Emergency treatment is provided free of charge to everyone, including foreign nationals, at the accident and emergency departments of state-run hospitals, but any subsequent in-patient care must be paid for by those who do not qualify for free medical treatment.
Getting an S1 Form
If you have decided to retire to Cyprus and are in receipt of a state UK pension, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. For this you need to get an S1 (E121) form before moving to Cyprus.
You can apply for your S1 form before leaving UK via the International Pension Centre by calling 0191 218 7777.
When in Cyprus, take your S1 and proof of your local address to the nearest hospital to register. Once you have registered your S1 in Cyprus, you will be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries outside Cyprus, including when you return to the UK.
Apart from the private clinics offering all sorts of treatment, Nicosia is home to a massive and impressive brand new hospital, and all over the island a great deal of private and public investment is made into the provision of quality health care facilities for locals and international patients alike.
Just like South Cyprus, the North offers you a choice of state-run or public hospitals and clinics if you find yourself in need of medical attention. Unlike in south Cyprus, you will have to pay for all your treatment in TRNC.
Private healthcare and hospital facilities are quite good in Northern Cyprus with new centres including the Near East University Hospital and Medical School boasting world-class equipment and treatment opportunities.
Whatever you prefer, be it a private or a state-run hospital, if you retire to North Cyprus you do need to pay for your healthcare.
You might want to consider private medical insurance.
International health cover is generally quite expensive. You may want to buy insurance with high excesses to be insured against the most expensive misfortunes only, and pay out of your own pocket for minor treatments. In this case your monthly insurance premiums can be quite low and you will have peace of mind knowing that you are covered in case of critical emergency.
With the cost of healthcare in the TRNC being fairly low anyway, you might find this option the best one.
You might also choose not to bother with insurance at all, and if you think your risks of getting seriously ill or needing an emergency surgery are quite low, then you can just pay per visit to see a specialist.
Emergency Treatment and Pharmacies
The emergency departments of all hospitals in North Cyprus have English-speaking personnel. But they do recommend you seek the assistance of an interpreter for more complex medical matters.
Emergency medical treatment is administered in the Accident and Emergency department. The emergency number for an ambulance is 112.
Alternatively (and this is the best way) make your way to the nearest hospital or health care clinic for immediate treatment. No one is refused emergency care whether they have the financial means to pay for it or not.
Pharmacies in North Cyprus are famous for selling almost every single prescription drug you can think of over the counter. Prescription and over the counter medicines produced in Turkey are often far cheaper than in the UK, while the drugs imported from Europe are usually expensive.
If you’re thinking of living in Cyprus and you’re concerned about getting medical attention – don’t be. Just ensure you look into the affordability of health cover versus going it alone and paying for any treatment. There are expatriate healthcare plans available or you can be insured by a local Cypriot insurance company.
Finally, if you do decide to take out health insurance when you move to Cyprus look at exemptions, exclusions and your excess.