Healthcare in Ireland

The Irish healthcare system is comprised of two tiers, the public and private. All residents of Ireland are entitled to receive healthcare through the public health system which is similar to the UK’s NHS. You may be required to pay a subsidised fee for certain health care requirements and depends on the patient’s age, incomes, illness or disability. All maternity services and child care up to the age of six months are provided free of charge. Hospitals tend to be located only in the major towns and cities with rural areas only being covered by basic healthcare such as clinics. Irish doctors and nurses are well trained and the hospitals themselves are of a high standard.

The European Health Insurance card

When you first arrive or prior to arriving in Ireland it is important that you apply for a European Health Insurance Card. With it you are entitled to free maintenance and treatment in hospitals. Patients earning more than median incomes however are often required to pay subsidised hospital fees.

The Medical card entitles holders to free hospital care, GP visits, dental services, optical services, aural services, prescription drugs and medical appliances- is available to those receiving welfare payments, low earners, those with certain long-term or severe illnesses and in certain other cases.


If you are a Medical card holder you are entitled to free prescriptions if you’re not then you could have to pay a subsidised fee. Normal opening hours are 9am to 6pm Mondays to Saturdays (often later on Thursdays or Fridays) and sometimes on Sunday mornings or afternoons. Many pharmacies are open until 9 or 10pm on weekdays and some open all day on Sundays and holidays. There are no 24-hour pharmacies in Ireland; if you’re in urgent need of drugs or medicines during the night, you must go to your nearest accident and emergency (hospital) department.


In case of an emergency call 112 or 999. These numbers are free of charge but should only be used in cases of genuine emergency.  On answer, state which service you require, wait to be connected to that service, and then clearly state the location of where the assistance is required.