Health and healthcare

Last modified: 11 December 2020

Warning: This page is due for revision and some of the information may be out-of-date, particularly information affected by the UK's exit from the European Union.


To access health care in the UK, you need to register with a GP when you arrive.  Your institution may provide information about how and where to do this locally.

Arriving in a new country is a very busy time for international students and there are a lot of changes to go through. In this type of situation, with all its stresses, you can find yourself paying less attention than usual to your health.

Existing health problems can also be made worse by the effects of adjusting to unfamiliar food, a different climate and the emotional strains of being away from home. It can be easy to concentrate on your studies and forget about taking care of yourself.

This section aims to give advice on looking after yourself, as well as practical information on how to obtain medical treatment. It also explains international students’ entitlement to free medical treatment under the UK state health system. It describes the different options such as Accident & Emergency, visiting your GP and hospital appointments.

The accident and emergency department in hospitals is for emergencies only, if you are unsure you should call NHS 111 first or visit your pharmacy, they will be able to advise you. If you are in Northern Ireland then you should only use the NHS 111 number if your call is about coronavirus, if it is not then call Northern Ireland's out of hours service

How the UK medical system works

Last modified: 15 September 2017

GP (Doctor) surgery or health centre

Hospital

Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department

England

Last modified: 14 September 2018

Treatment that is free for everyone

People who don't pay hospital fees

Level of hospital fees

The regulations

Scotland

Last modified: 05 October 2018

Immigration health surcharge

Full-time students

Short-term students

Reciprocal Health Care Agreements

EEA nationals

Others

Treatment that is free for everyone

The regulations

Wales

Last modified: 14 September 2018

You have paid the immigration health surcharge

Courses of six months or more

Courses of less than six months

Reciprocal Health Care Agreements

EEA nationals

Others

Treatment that is free for everyone

The regulations

Northern Ireland

Last modified: 14 September 2018

You have paid the immigration health surcharge

Courses of six months or more

Courses of less than six months

Reciprocal Health Care Agreements

EEA nationals

Others

Treatment that is free for everyone

The regulations

Register with a GP

Last modified: 07 September 2016

When you arrive in the UK you should register with a local doctor as soon as you can. Do not wait until you are ill. Click on the information below to find out how to do this.

How to register with a local doctor (‘GP’, General Practitioner)

Who can register?

Appointments with a doctor

Prescriptions, Dentists, Opticians

Last modified: 15 September 2017

Prescriptions

Dental treatment

Eye tests and eye care

Claiming help towards health costs

“No recourse to public funds”

Specific health issues

Last modified: 04 September 2015

Family planning

Alternative medicine

British weather

Healthy eating

Sexual health

Meningitis (and septicaemia)

The ‘Common Cold’

NHS Debt and Immigration

Last modified: 24 September 2015

Since October 2011, the immigration rules have included provisions to refuse immigration applications by some people, if they have an outstanding unpaid invoice for NHS treatment.

See our information about General grounds for refusal

Insurance

Last modified: 09 February 2016

Even if you are entitled to free NHS treatment whilst in the UK, you should consider taking out insurance which covers other medical-related costs. An insurance policy may cover, for example:

  • lost fees if you are unable to complete your course;
  • costs of returning home if a relative is ill;
  • costs of a relative visiting you in the UK if you fall ill;
  • cost of returning to your home country for treatment;
  • or in the worst possible situation, returning a body home for burial.

There is often a long wait for NHS treatment, sometimes many months. An insurance policy which gives you access to private medical care could give you much quicker access to the treatment you need.

If you already have medical insurance in your home country, check whether you can extend it to cover your stay in the UK, as well as looking at options available from UK insurers.

Addresses and contacts

Last modified: 04 September 2015

National Health Service (NHS)

Other contacts


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