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International student's guide to the UK's healthcare system

Learn about the healthcare system that you can receive as an international student.

In this article:

What is the National Health Service and who is eligible to apply?

The National Health Service (NHS) is the health care service system of the UK government. If you are a student holding a Tier 4 student visa and if your course is more than six months, you will be eligible to apply for the NHS. 

What services does the NHS cover?

After qualifying for the NHS, you will receive the same benefits as a UK citizen. Some of the free services include: 

  • General practitioner (GP) office visits 
  • Emergency treatment
  • Family planning
  • Psychiatric treatment
  • Treatment of certain infectious diseases

Apart from the above, you will have to pay for other medical needs like vaccinations, prescriptions, optical and dental treatments.

How to apply and how much does the NHS cost?

You can apply for the NHS while applying for your visa. Tier 4 student visa processing for a stay of more than six months is £300 and will include NHS surcharge costs. 

How to register with a GP

Finding and registering with a doctor is very important. It would help if you made sure that this is one of the first things you do after landing in the country. The process takes some time and trying to do it while sick and in need of healthcare can be tedious. 

To find and register with a doctor: 

  • Visit the NHS website and click on ‘services near you’
  • In the next window, select GP
  • In the next window, enter the town, city or postcode of your location or use the geolocation on your phone to locate services near you
  • Select one service provider and click on their link to know more details about them. 
  • Get a letter from your university proving you are a student. 
  • Visit the health care provider’s clinic with the letter from the university, your passport and other immigration documents. They will add you to their NHS list, and you will receive a confirmation mail of your registration

You can also register online with certain health care providers by logging into the NHS website. 

What to do in case of a medical emergency?

If you have an immediate medical emergency, you can call for an ambulance by dialling 999. If you do not have an emergency but still require urgent medical care, you can visit the nearby 24-hour hospital emergency department. If you are in Wales, England or Scotland you can dial 111 for non-emergent 24-hour medical care.

What to do if you have a pre-existing health condition or if you need a medical specialist?

Get your complete medical history from your doctor in your native country. Make sure that this report is in English. Visit your registered GP in the UK and explain your medical situation and your need for a specialist. After the consultation, your GP will refer you to a specialist if needed. 

What to do if you are not eligible to apply for the NHS?

If you do not hold a Tier 4 student visa or if you are doing a short course, you might not be eligible to apply for the NHS. In this case, always make sure that you find a private health insurance plan before leaving your home country.