Holidays and the ICD

Having an ICD does not stop you going on holiday, but there are certain things that you may have to take into account when planning a holiday.  The most important thing is to take your doctor’s (cardiologist or GP) advice.  You may have to restrict your choice because of the condition that caused you to need the ICD.

ICDs are very reliable, but it is possible that you may need to seek attention at a hospital that has the equipment to control your particular make of machine.  For that reason some consultants recommend that you take your holidays within two hours travel from a District General Hospital and within six hours travel from a hospital having ICD capabilities.  Not every consultant insists on this for every patient, but you should ask your consultant his opinion about this particularly related to you, because it is to him that any insurance company will come to check any claim.

Where can you go?

If you are told to stay within the distances mentioned above, you have the choice of all of Western Europe, Canada, the U.S.A. and the larger Commonwealth countries.

If you have access to a computer with an internet connection then you can find out which hospitals support your particular make of machine.
·    For Guidant / Boston Scientific models find the “Travel with your device” section on their website
·    For Medtronic models visit their website
·    For St Jude models ask at your Defibrillator Clinic.

If you don’t have access to a computer with an internet connection then ask a friend who has for help; or ask Bill Pontin or Ken Pugh, whose contact details are given on the “About Us” page – see the tab at the top of this page.

If your holiday destination is not covered by the websites, then you should contact the technician who deals with your ICD and ask about ICD competent hospitals in your proposed holiday area.

What to take with you

1.   The ICD documents that you were given when you had your last implant, including your “magnet sheet” (if you were given one).  These give the make, model and settings of your particular machine and will be useful if you have to seek help.  If you don’t have them, then call your implanting hospital and ask for a new one.

2.   Always obtain a form E111 from your local Post Office, as this will afford a certain amount of medical cover in Europe and the Commonwealth even if your insurance company fails to pay, or if you choose to go uninsured.

3.   Don’t forget an adequate supply of the drugs you may be taking, as it may be difficult and expensive to get the right things when you are abroad.


Insuring yourself for your holiday can be a problem.  Insurance provided by the travel agent may be okay, but you should make sure that they know of your heart condition, and you must read the form carefully and fill it in accurately and honestly to avoid problems.  If you are asked to describe your problem we suggest that you don’t get too technical.  Write something like – “cardiac arrhythmia managed by drugs and a defibrillator”.  One ICD user simply put down “cardiac arrhythmia” and this was accepted when he had to be flown back from Spain.  You should have an up-to-date certificate from your GP or consultant saying that you are fit to go.

Whilst the support Group does not endorse any of them, should you have problems getting insured, it is worth trying the following to get cover:-
1.   Bank of Scotland – they have a policy that covers you for several holidays; you don’t need an account to get it.
2.   Thomas Cook - Tel: 0845 600 5454 or your local branch.  They state that they will consider covering ICD patients providing the following conditions are fulfilled:
      a.     Medication is being taken and the condition is well controlled
      b.     The person concerned is not receiving, or awaiting, in-patient treatment.  Specifically this means that you must not be on a waiting list.
     c.     There is a certificate of fitness to travel from the GP.
     d.     The person must be within any medically advised travel distance to an appropriate hospital.
3.     Free Spirit.  Tel: 01428 255666.  One ICD user reports good service from them, though they are expensive.
4.     BUPA.  If you are a member, BUPA have a travel policy.  This can be available to non-members at an increased rate, though recent enquiries suggest that they may be reluctant to cover defibrillators.
5.     SAGA.  Tel: 0800 505 606.  Their insurance will cover people over 50 years of age for a single trip or for a year.
6.     Post Office.  They now sell travel insurance either for one occasion or for a year.  The brochure looks as if it should cover us.
7.     Medicover Insurance Services Ltd.  Tel: 0870 735 3600.

8.    All Clear Travel.  Tel: 0845 250 5350

 You could also try your bank’s insurance services, or Age Concern.  There are more possibilities on the website:

 David Fieldhouse of Perkins Slade, Tel: 0845 260 1574,, can also be contacted to give advice.  David kindly spoke at one of our meetings and gave a very helpful overview of the do's and don'ts regarding insurance and travel by those with medical conditions. 

Do shop around.  It seems that more insurers are willing to give cover if you have your doctor’s agreement.


The ICD is perfectly safe for any mode of transport.  However, your doctors might advise against certain modes of travel if your general condition is such as to be likely to cause problems.

Airport security can be a problem but we suggest the following: On arriving at the security gate identify yourself as having a pacemaker (few have heard of a defibrillator or an ICD). This is where your little identification card from the hospital becomes handy. You can then either briskly walk through the security gate or walk around it.  It is then inevitable you will be hand searched.  In the unlikely event of security insisting on using a hand held wand to screen you, then refuse from the waist up but allow them to wand from the waist down. Request to see a supervisor if you are still not happy.

Whilst the Sutton ICD Support Group makes every effort to ensure accurate information,
we disclaim any legal responsibility for actions as a result of the contents of this page.