Healthcare rights

Ireland has a 2-tier health service with public and private services available. You are entitled to receive public health services if you are living in Ireland, or intend to live here for at least one year. This is known as being ordinarily resident in Ireland. Public health services are supported by the state and delivered by the Health Service Executive (HSE). If you are ordinarily resident in Ireland you can access healthcare in Europe.

How can I access healthcare?

The HSE provides health services to all people in hospitals, health facilities and communities across Ireland. The first point of contact for community health services is your local health office. These offices provide a wide range of services including family doctor services, child health services, eye care, physiotherapy, speech therapy, counselling and psychiatric services.

You may be entitled to a medical card which entitles you to free healthcare across a range of services (doctor visits, dental care, eye care and more). Your eligibility for this medical card is based on your means. If you are not eligible for a medical card, you may be entitled to a GP Visit card which gives you free doctor visits.

Available Services

Primary healthcare 

In Ireland, primary care refers to all health and social care services that you can find in your community outside of hospitals. Primary care is provided mainly by general practitioners (GPs) or in community health centres in towns and villages around Ireland. Primary care services include:

  • GP Service
  • Community Nurse Service
  • Home Care Attendant Service
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Social Work Service
  • Speech and Language Therapy


There are 29 emergency departments (EDs) across Ireland. Some of these departments will only treat adult patients. You should attend EDs in the case of serious emergencies including accidents, injuries or in cases where your life may be threatened. EDs are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To receive treatment, you can visit the EDs directly or call 112/999 free of charge to request the Ambulance Service. When speaking to an Emergency Call Taker over the phone it is important that you remain calm and follow their instructions.


Specialist health care services will always require an appointment. Your own doctor usually must refer you to an appropriate specialist if they assess that you require further examination. Depending on the specialist you need, there may be long waiting times to visit them. If you visit a private specialist, the waiting time is usually much shorter.

You can access dental services through a private dentist. You will need to arrange an appointment yourself. If you have a valid medical card, you can access many services for free but you should always check with your dentist before receiving these services. Children aged 15 years or younger are entitled to free dental care through the HSE Dental Clinics. This service is accessed through schools.

The HSE provides a range of services for people with disabilities and those who care for them including home help, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.

The HSE also provides a full range of services aimed at women’s health which addresses pregnancy, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and many other issues.

Mental health services are also widely available through face to face contact, telephone and online services provided by the HSE. Some NGOs (such as Spirasi) offer services which works with refugees who have experienced significant mental trauma. Your doctor can refer you to these organisations if requested. 

Where can I get medicine?

You will to visit a pharmacy to get medicine. There are over 1500 pharmacies in Ireland. All pharmacies are staffed by healthcare professionals who can give you information about treatments and offer advice on use of medication. Although some medication can be bought directly from pharmacies, most medication requires a written prescription from a family doctor. Pharmacies also provide other services such as flu vaccinations.

To find your nearest pharmacy visit here

How can I find a doctor?

A family doctor is known as General Practitioner (GP). GPs are normally the first doctor you will see about a health problem. GPs are private healthcare providers and usually charge for a visit. However, your visit will be free if you have a Medical Card or GP Visit Card. Some GPs will call to your home if you are sick and others will arrange night and weekend services. GPs will also refer you to consultants for specialist treatment.

You can find your nearest GP by contacting your nearest Health Centre or visiting the Find a GP service .

Health Insurance

You may wish to get private health insurance if you wish to receive private healthcare from hospitals or other private health practices. There are a wide range of companies who provide voluntary health insurance in Ireland. These companies provide a wide range of health care cover depending on your needs and means to pay. The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) regulates the health insurance industry in Ireland.