Information about UK Healthcare

The UK has a National Health Service (NHS) which provides its residents with various healthcare services. Please refer to the information below for information about these services and to find out you are entitled to use them as an international student.

What free treatment does the UK National Health Service (NHS) provide to everyone?

Some NHS services are free to everyone, these include:

  • Emergency treatment (but not follow-up treatment)
  • Treatment of certain communicable (contagious) diseases
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment
  • Family planning services (contraception)

Am I entitled to other free treatment?

You and your dependants will be entitled to additional free treatment if you fall under one of the following categories:

  • Your course of study is for six months or more, whatever your nationality.
  • Your course of study is less than six months, and you are a European Economic Area national. In this case you will need to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in your country of residence to prove that you are entitled to free treatment.

If you fall under either of these categories, you will be entitled to the access the following services for free:

  • GP (General Practitioner - doctor) services such as appointments with a doctor or nurse and use of doctor’s clinics
  • Hospital treatment both emergency and non-emergency

If you are not in the categories above, we strongly advise you to take out medical insurance for the duration of your stay. Find out more about healthcare in England, including what you will and won't need to pay for.

Do I need to pay the Healthcare Surcharge?

You may need to pay a healthcare surcharge (called the 'immigration health surcharge' or IHS) when you apply for your visa if you are staying for more than 6 months. Find out if you need to pay the healthcare surcharge

You will still need to pay the surcharge if you have private medical insurance. NHS England provides information for those moving from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), including more details on the healthcare surcharge.

What will I have to pay for?

Even if you are entitled to free treatment, you may need to pay for:

  • Some GP (doctor) services (e.g. certain vaccinations)
  • Dental and optical treatment
  • Medicines prescribed by your GP (doctor)

If you are on a low income you may qualify for free prescriptions for medicines and for help with the cost of your glasses or dental treatment. To see if you qualify you will need to complete a HC1 form available from Guild Advice at the Guild of Students.  Health benefits do not count as “recourse to public funds” for the purpose of your visa, so claiming health benefits will not affect your immigration status. Detailed information on help with your medical expenses is available on the UKCISA website.

If you cannot get free NHS prescriptions and you will be receiving prescriptions on a regular basis, you could reduce your costs by purchasing a prepayment certificate. This certificate allows you to pay a set amount no matter how many NHS prescriptions you have. If you think you will have to pay for more than 5 prescription items in 4 months or 14 items in 12 months, you may find it cheaper to buy a prepayment certificate (PPC). You can get a prepayment certificate application form from your GP surgery or pharmacy or apply for a prepayment certificate online.

Registering with a doctor 

Find out how to register with a GP (doctor). You should do this as soon as possible when you arrive.

In an emergency

In a medical emergency you should telephone 999. The call is free.

The nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) department to the University is at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, near the University train station. If you have an accident or urgent medical problem you can go to the A&E department to be seen by a doctor.  You should only got to A&E in an emergency. You do not need to make an appointment, but you may have to wait several hours as people are seen depending on the urgency of their medical situation. A&E is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you need medical help but it is not an emergency and your Doctor is unavailable, you may want to use an NHS walk-in centre where you can be seen by a nurse. Pharmacies can also give advice on common illnesses such as colds and coughs.

You can also telephone NHS 111 if you need medical help or advice but it is not an emergency. You will speak to trained advisers who are supported by healthcare professionals. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by telephoning 111. The call is free.

Checklist for international students

See our health checklist for international students to help you decide what you need to do.


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