Medical carePrint

Where to turn for medical assistance?

In Poland, healthcare services are provided by the following types of institutions:

  • hospital;
  • healthcare center, healthcare clinic, ambulatory clinic for those in need of a general practitioner or specialist assistance;
  • emergency services  - in case of accidents, injuries, sudden labor or sudden illness which constitute a potential danger to the patient’s life;
  • diagnostic laboratory performing diagnostic tests and analyses on the basis of a referral from a general practitioner or a dentist – what is a referral? ->
  • orthodontist and dental prosthetics clinics provide services on the basis of a referral from a dentist;
  • rehabilitation centre clinics provide services on the basis of a referral from a general practitioner. 

In Poland, health care facilities are either public or privately owned.

It should be kept in mind that the insured person is eligible to receive free medical services  -paid by the insurer - only in healthcare facilities that have signed a contract with the NFZ. Usually, in such a  facility there is a display informing patients that the institution has signed a contract with the NFZ. If a patient receives assistance in a health care institution which does not have a contract with the NFZ, he will be obligated to cover the costs incurred by himself, whether he is insured or not. It is possible to receive free assistance in healthcare facilities that do not have a signed contract with the NFZ only in emergencies, such as a sudden condition posing a threat to the patient’s health or life. In such critical circumstances only vital assistance can be provided free of charge. 



In emergencies, health care services are provided promptly and without a referral, and the patient has the right to assistance from a nurse, midwife, doctor or hospital which does not have a signed contract with the NFZ. 

In life-threatening situations, an ambulance should be called by dialing 999 or the general emergency number 112 (both numbers can be used for landline and mobile connections).

The operator answering the call should be given the following information:

  • exact location of the incident (address, orientation points);
  • reason for the call;
  • who is in need of assistance;
  • who is calling the ambulance. 

In an emergency the patient can also go to the emergency ward of a hospital without a referral - what is a referral? ->

Healthcare services financed from public funds

Foreigners entitled to receive healthcare assistance financed from public funds have the right to the following: 

  • Healthcare services, i.e. any services aimed at preserving, saving, restoring, and improving health, and related to: 
    • examination and medical counseling,
    • treatment,
    • medical rehabilitation,
    • care of a pregnant woman and child
    • diagnostic procedures,
    • care for the sick and disabled;
    • preventative medicine,
    • rulings and opinions on the state of health,
    • technical activities connected with prosthetics and orthodontics services, and
    • provision of orthopedic items and aids. 
  • health benefits in kind - medicine, medical devices, orthopedic items and aids connected with therapy. 
  • accompanying benefits - such as accommodation and board at a full-time facility or medical transport services.

Specialized care

In the Polish public healthcare system, specialized care services are provided on the basis of a referral from a general practitioner. For services provided by the following specialists a referral is not required - what is a referral? -> : 

  • gynecologist and obstetrician
  • dentist;
  • dermatologist;
  • venerologist;
  • oncologist;
  • ophthalmologist
  • psychiatrist. 

The following people do not need to obtain a referral:

  • patients with tuberculosis;
  • HIV-positive persons;
  • those addicted to alcohol, narcotics and psychotropic substances as concerns addiction treatment. 


Hospital treatment or rehabilitation services are provided to individuals presenting a valid referral from a physician. The hospital referral may also be issued by a doctor from a "private" facility, with no contract with the NFZ. If admission on a given day when the patient arrives is impossible, the patient should be entered onto the waitlist.

Without the required referral only individuals in emergency situations are admitted.

Dental treatment

No referral is needed for a dentist. Patients reporting a toothache are admitted on the day of arrival. 


Some drugs are available by prescription only; the prescription is prepared by an authorised physician. Prescription drugs can be partially refundable (in such cases they are cheaper) or refundable in their entirety.

Patients in hospitals and other establishments offering round-the-clock medical care receive the required medicine free of charge.

From 1 January 2012 the same pharmaceuticals in all pharmacies have the same price.
It should be noted that you can buy a cheaper substitute of some medications prescribed by your doctor at the pharmacy - this information can be obtained from the pharmacist.

Please be aware that prescription drugs must be purchased within 30 days from the date of issue of the prescription; in the case of antibiotics this term is 7 days.

Selection of physician / nurse / midwife

Patients entitled to public healthcare services (see "Who can benefit from health care services financed from public funds?") have the right to choose their physician / nurse / midwife within the primary healthcare services. 

This selection is confirmed by a document called a declaration of choice, which contains: 

1) Information about the patient (name, surname, date of birth, PESEL number if available, gender, contact data of the school/education institution in the case of pupils/students, residence address, phone number);

2) Information on the number of choices made so far that year;

3) Insurance card number – for insured patients;

4) Voivodship NFZ branch code: every voivodship has its own code, your local clinic will inform you of the relevant number for your place of residence;  

5) information about the selected physician, nurse, midwife (name and surname, registered address of the service provider, location of service provision);

6) date of selection;

7) signature of the person submitting the declaration;

8) signature of the person accepting the declaration of choice. 

It should be borne in mind that a new choice can be made free of charge only twice in a given year, and the fee for any subsequent changes is 80 PLN. Such fees shall not be charged if the patient changes his place of residence, or if the change results from other reasons beyond the control of the patient. 

The patient has no obligation to choose a doctor, nurse and midwife in the same clinic.

Registration at the clinic

At the registration desk in the clinic a patient has the right to obtain information concerning:

  • services available at the clinic;
  • wait times;
  • forms and deadlines for registration at a given practitioner;
  • required documents and referrals needed to be admitted to consultation;
  • test results required during the consultation;
  • place of performance of diagnostic tests prescribed by the physician (e.g. ultrasound, x-ray);
  • rules of access to medical records;
  • clinic opening hours. 

Registration for an appointment can be done in person, by telephone, through a third party, and if possible in a given clinic electronically. 

Note: Sometimes the person registering patients refuses registration of foreigners on the basis of a mistaken assumption that a foreigner cannot have access to public health services. It is worth remembering that if the patient is insured and has proof of such insurance, the person registering patients is obliged to register the foreigner for an appointment with the practitioner.

Nighttime and holiday medical assistance

Between 6.00pm and 8.00am and on public holidays, in case of sudden illness or sudden deterioration of health and if there is a justified reason to fear that waiting for the opening of a clinic may adversely affect a person’s health, patients may turn to an on-duty clinic. A referral is not needed in such cases. The physician on duty can provide advice at the clinic, by telephone or at the patient’s home.
Information about the nearest clinic on duty is provided by every medical clinic.
Information on the nearest pharmacy on duty is also available in every pharmacy.

Compulsory hospitalization

The following individuals are subject to compulsory hospitalisation:

  • individuals suffering from tuberculosis in the contagious stage and those with justified suspicion of such;
  • individuals suffering from or suspected of suffering from:
a) diphtheria,
b) cholera,
c) typhoid fever,
d) paratyphoid A, B, C,
e) typhus exanthematicus (including Brill-Zinsser disease),
f) plague,
g) influenza H7 and H5,
h) polio and other acute flaccid paralysis, including Guillain-Barré syndrome,
i) smallpox,
j) sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS),
k) tularemia,
l) anthrax,
m) rabies,
n) viral meningitis or encephalitis,
o) viral haemorrhagic fevers, including yellow fever. 

Note: Refusal of treatment of these diseases may lead to refusal to grant a residence permit for a defined period. More information is available here ->