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UK tourists to lose free Channel Island healthcare

Popping over to a Channel Island will require travel insurance to cover medical costs, after the decision was made to end the current mutual healthcare agreement on 1 April.

The arrangement, set in place in 1976, permitted UK travellers a limited number of free treatments. But, from next month, tourists who fall ill or have an accident while visiting one of the islands will need adequate travel insurance to cover medical costs, including ambulance travel and in-patient or out-patient treatment. Residents from the Channel Islands, such as Guernsey (pictured), Jersey and Alderney, which have health services separate from the NHS, will also be liable for medical treatment charges in the UK.

In other travel news, there are more than three million people whose European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) are about to fall out of date. Figures show that, of the 3.3 million cards due to expire at the end of the month, only 292,089 have been renewed so far.

"Anyone travelling with an expired EHIC is putting themselves at risk – they will not be covered for basic medical care," says Health minister Dawn Primarolo. An EHIC entitles the holder to either reduced or free state-provided healthcare in most European countries, but it is still advisable to take out comprehensive travel insurance on top.