Know your rights: Emergency medical card

What is an emergency medical card and how do I apply for one?

An emergency medical card is a medical card that you can get without a means test in certain emergency situations.

You can get an emergency medical card if you:

  • Have a terminal illness and have been told you have 24 months or less to live
  • Are getting end-of-life treatment
  • Need urgent ongoing care and urgently need a medical card

Only a healthcare professional (for example, a doctor or consultant) can apply for an emergency medical card for you. They will send the application to the HSE.

If your application is approved, it can take up to 10 days to get your medical card in the post. However, your card will be active within 24 hours of your application being processed.  Your GP, pharmacy and hospital staff will see your card is active on their systems. This means you can access medical card services while you wait for your card in the post.

If you get a medical card because you have a terminal illness and have been told you have 24 months or less to live, the HSE will never review your card and your card will never expire.

If you get a medical card because you are receiving end-of-life treatment, the HSE will never review your card and your card will never expire. End-of-life treatment means you have been told you have less than 12 months left to live.

If you get a medical card because you need urgent ongoing care and urgently need a medical card, your card will expire after 6 months. You will need to complete a means assessment before your emergency medical card expires. The HSE will write to you to remind you to do this.

You can get more information from the National Medical Card Unit on (051) 595 129, or lo-call 1890 252 919 or you can contact your local Citizens Information Centre.

You can read more about emergency medical cards on citizensinformation.ie


During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo.

You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.