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Health services for older people in Northern Ireland

There are a wide range of services for people growing older in Northern Ireland.

NHS health care

NI Direct contains information relating to Health for those living and resident in Northern Ireland. See NI Direct – Health Services

For all others, e.g. people who have moved across the border you may be entitled to access the NHS if any of the following conditions apply:

  • have been living legally in the UK for at least 12 months when you start treatment, and did not come to the UK for private medical treatment. Temporary absences from the UK of up to three months (in England, up to 182 days) are ignored
  • have come to the UK to take up permanent residence, for example, if you are a former UK resident who has returned from abroad, or if you have been granted leave to enter or remain as a spouse
  • have come to the UK to work, either as an employee or self-employed person. In England and Wales, if you are employed, your employer’s main place of business must be in the UK or be registered in the UK. This could be, for example, a branch of an overseas company. If you are self-employed your main place of business must be in the UK
  • normally work in the UK, but are temporarily working abroad for less than five years. You also need to have lived in the UK continuously for at least ten years before going overseas.
  • are receiving a UK war pension
  • have been granted, or made an application for temporary protection, asylum or humanitarian protection
  • have been identified as having been trafficked from abroad or are believed to have been trafficked from abroad
  • are imprisoned in the UK or detained by UK immigration authorities
  • get a UK state retirement pension and live in the UK for at least 182 days a year and live in another European Economic Area (EEA) member state or Switzerland for the other part of the year. If you have registered as a resident of another EEA state or Switzerland, you may be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment if you fall ill during a trip back to the UK
  • are from a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland and have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC does not cover coming to the UK just to get medical treatment but it allows you to get free care if you’re referred to the UK for pre-planned treatment with an E112 or S2 certificate

Source: Citizens Advice Bureau, Advice Guide  – NHS charges for people from abroad

Residential care and nursing homes

The NI Direct website contains some very useful information on the types of residential care available in Northern Ireland.  It provides advice on choosing care, covering the costs and the standards of care you can expect.  For further information please visit – NI Direct – Residential care and nursing homes


Age NI (formerly Age Concern NI and Age Concern) is an independent charity that works with and for older people.  It can provide you with professional advice and information on care and services available for older people.  For further information please visit

Cross-border Issues

  • If you are a pensioner and live in Northern Ireland you can choose to spend up to six months living across the border (or in another EU country) and still be eligible for NHS healthcare (see above).
  • Northern residents who decide to move to the South for retirement are not entitled to access the NHS in the north on a routine basis, regardless of the fact that they have paid national insurance. They may, subject to a means test, qualify for an Irish medical card which would entitle them to free public healthcare in the South.
    For further information please visit: HSE –Medical Cards for People Aged 70 and Over

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