Health in the UK

The UK healthcare system

It’s important to look after yourself while you’re studying and living away from home, and this includes making sure you stay healthy. 

The UK healthcare system is known as the National Health Service (NHS). When you arrive, we will help you register with a doctor (also known as a General Practitioner or GP) at your local surgery.

If you’re eligible for NHS treatment, you can also get treatment from any dentist who accepts NHS patients. Eye tests cost around £20 and are available at opticians, which you can find in town or city centres – our team can help you register for both of these.

From outside the EEA?

If you’re studying in the UK for 6 months or more, you’ll need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) when you apply for your visa. The surcharge is £150 per person, and any dependent family members who are applying for visas with you will also have to pay this charge.

IHS will entitle you to free treatment at NHS hospitals while you’re here, along with the ability to register with a doctor and NHS dentist. Some prescriptions will need to be paid for though, depending on what you have been prescribed by your doctor or dentist – you can check this with the pharmacy.

Studying for less than 6 months? You will only be able to access free NHS treatment in an emergency. This is also the case with doctors, who may treat you for free but usually only when urgent treatment is needed. Any other medical treatment or prescriptions you need will need to be paid for, which may be covered by your medical insurance plan.

Things to remember

While registering with a doctor is a simple process, it may take a couple of weeks for everything to be set up, so it’s worth making sure you prepare for your stay if you have any health problems. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you stay as healthy as possible:

  • If you have a significant health problem and/or require regular medication, be sure to bring a letter from your doctor when you arrive in the UK which explains your diagnosis and treatment
  • Bring enough supplies of your medication to last you for at least a month in case your prescription is difficult to get at short notice
  • Check if you require any immunisations before coming to the UK – if you can, have these before you arrive

Health insurance

While you’re studying in the UK, you will need to have full travel, medical and health insurance – you can either set this up yourself or we can add Uniplan insurance to your course fees, which covers:

  • reimbursement of your prepaid course fees due to cancelling, cutting short or repeating your course due to accident, illness or sickness 
  • the cost of bringing a relative to the UK to visit you following a medical emergency 
  • medical costs which are not covered by the National Health Service if you become ill or have an accident 
  • your legal liability to pay damages if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property

In an emergency

If you find yourself or anyone else in an emergency situation, you should call 999. If you urgently need medical help but it’s not a life-threatening situation, you can call 111.

If the situation is less serious, you can make an appointment with your doctor or most towns and cities have a walk-in centre where you can wait for the next available appointment. Most hospitals also have a Minor Injury Clinic and Accident & Emergency departments.