The government has pledged a six-month sticking plaster over health care costs for expats if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed pensioners, students and Brits working in the EU will have their health care costs paid until the end of April 2020.
The NHS will write to 180,000 Brits in the EU whose health cover is already paid for by the UK government, reminding them to register for health care in the country where they live.
The six-month period of grace for health care covers the time most expats will need to sign up for local treatment.
Meanwhile, the government is uncertain which countries will accept the NHS payment, so has put £150 million aside to cover the cost.
“The government has also committed to covering the costs of UK nationals in the EU who are in the middle of treatment when we leave the EU, for up to a year,” said a Department of Health spokesman.
“The government will also provide cover during the time it takes to be registered with a local healthcare scheme. This is to ensure people are not exposed to gaps in healthcare coverage and potentially high costs while they register for healthcare locally. To be eligible for this support, people must apply within local timeframes or no later than six months after we leave, whichever is the shortest.”
Pre-Brexit healthcare arrangements with Ireland remain in place, while those in Spain continue until December 31, 2020.
Spain is the most popular European destination for British expats, with a population of at least 365,000.
“Protecting the healthcare rights of UK nationals is a priority of this government,” said the minister.
“While the government continues to work towards a good deal, I am today announcing that pensioners, students and UK workers living in the EU will have their healthcare costs covered for six months after October 31, whatever the circumstances of Brexit.
“All UK nationals in the EU should act now and take the simple steps needed to secure their access to healthcare.”
The letter also confirms UK state pensions will rise in line with the cost of living for three years after Brexit.