kidney patients safe travels

Safe travels for kidney patients

We haven’t been able travel for many months, so the easing of lockdown brings thoughts of holidays and safe travel for kidney patients. But kidney patients need to plan ahead carefully, especially as and when it’s safe for us to travel outside the UK.

Dialysis away from base for visiting kidney patients

New guidance has just been published by the Renal Association to enable dialysis units to safely admit visiting dialysis patients. Units are asked to consider reopening to dialysis away from base (DAFB) and let patients know whether it is available.

This new guidance only applies if shielding or local lockdown is not in place in base or destination units. Before making any arrangements for travel,
talk to your clinical team. Kidney patients are vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and infections have sadly occurred at dialysis units.

EHIC becomes GHIC

Following to the Brexit Co-operation Agreement, made on Christmas Eve 2020, all UK residents are still able to use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive emergency healthcare in the EU. This means that UK kidney patients can continue to access dialysis on presentation of your EHIC when travelling in the EU.

You can continue to use your EHIC until it expires. If you need a new card or are applying for the first time, you need to apply for the new, free-of-charge Global Healthcare Insurance Card (GHIC).

Before you travel, check that EHIC/GHIC will cover you. Since the Brexit Co-operation Agreement was made with the EU, it applies to member countries only.
It does not apply in countries like Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Iceland, which are associated with, but not members of, the EU.

EHIC/GHIC does not replace the need to take out travel insurance. In some countries you are expected to pay for treatment that would be free of charge
on the NHS. EHIC/GHIC also won’t cover you if you need emergency repatriation, which can be very expensive indeed.

Travel insurance advice

It’s a good idea to have travel insurance even if you are travelling in the UK. It will cover you for lost or stolen bags, emergency medical expenses, personal liability and costs of cancelling or delaying your holiday. However, travel insurance can be hard to find for kidney patients or anyone with a ‘pre-existing medical condition’.

The website of the Money Advice Service, which offers free and impartial financial advice, now includes advice on travel insurance for people with a medical condition, and a Travel Insurance Directory of specialist travel insurers – a good resource for safe travel for kidney patients. There’s also good advice on travel insurance policies and coronavirus.

More information for safe travels for kidney patients

Guidance on dialysis away from base click HERE.

Where EHIC applies and how to apply for your GHIC card, visit

When applying for GHIC avoid unofficial websites that may try to charge you for your card –  GHIC is FREE.

The Money Advice Service advice on travel insurance: click HERE.