Healthcare in the UK
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK provides free medical treatment for all students on courses of more than six months and their dependants. Students from the European Economic Area are also entitled to free medical treatment on the NHS if their course is less than six months providing they carry their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
To access the National Health Service you have to register with a doctor (General Practitioner GP). Doctors in the United Kingdom have catchment areas. The NHS doctors at The University of Nottingham Health Service have a very large catchment area, so you may find this is the easiest practice to register with. Check the map on their website for more information.
Details of all NHS doctors are available on the NHS website.
For more information please watch our video on healthcare in the UK or read the questions and answers below.
Dr Adam Connor, University Health Centre
What is the NHS and what does it include?
The NHS is a medical service which provides care for people in the UK. It is different to many other health systems in that at the time you are using it you do not pay for most services.
It is comprised of:
GPs (general practitioners or family doctors). They are the people that you see most of the time for health problems.
Hospitals and the doctors that work there.
It includes treatment at your GP and hospitals, investigations, in-patient stays or even operations.
How do I register with the NHS?
The International Office has a Welcome Programme and one of the things that is covered is the National Health Service and registration with a GP.
There are set times and days where you can be guided through the process. It is an easy process and you are registered with the NHS from that point.
If you miss those appointment times or come at another time in the year, then you can go to the Health Centre to register.
I didn't take part in the Welcome Programme, how do I register?
You should go to the Health Centre. If you already have an NHS medical card take this with you. If you do not have an NHS medical card you will asked to complete a pre-registration form.
To register you need to take your university offer letter confirming the duration of your course, along with proof of where you live. You will be asked to fill in some forms and you may be invited to have a simple medical examination.
What things aren't covered by the NHS?
THe NHS does not cover:
dental services - as you have to pay for some of those services up front
opticians where you receive spectacles or contact lenses
Do students need to seek private insurance of any kind?
If you are on a short course, below six months, or a dependant of somebody on a course of less than six months then you would need private insurance, otherwise the costs for healthcare can get very high. If you are eligible for NHS care, then no you would not need private insurance.
How does healthcare in the UK differ from that overseas?
I think the biggest difference is using a GP. It's a very different relationship. That doctor has your best interests at heart, they will treat you only based on true clinical needs.
Many conditions are viral and they aren't treated well by the use of tablets; your doctor will always do what's in your best interest. The doctor is also responsible for determining whether you go to the hospital or if you need to be referred to another colleague.
Does everything go through the GP?
Most things. If there is a true emergency then someone can access the hospital immediately by using the Emergency Department but that is only when someone is immediately ill with a life threatening illness or an accident such as a broken bone.
What's a pharmacy?
A pharmacy is where you take your prescription. A prescription is the piece of paper that your doctor will give you if they feel that you need some medication.
Pharmacists are trained professionals who can advise you about minor ailments and they can give you medication straight away.
In the UK, Pharmacists are not allowed to give you antibiotics without a prescription from a doctor.