1. The National Health Service.

2. Doctor.

3. Emergency services.

4. Dentist.

5. Optician.

6. Private health insurance.

7. Having a baby in the UK.


1. The National Health Service (NHS)

The National Health Service was set up in the UK in 1948 and is now the largest organisation in Europe. It is recognised as one of the best health services in the world by the World Health Organisation.

All visitors to the UK are entitled to some treatment from the NHS. The dependant of an international member of staff (that is the husband, wife or children aged up to 16, or up to 19 if in full time education) is entitled to free treatment on the NHS provided:

  • They have a passport stamp which confirms they are in the UK as the dependant of that member of international staff.
  • They arrived in the UK at the same time as, or shortly after, the member of staff.
  • The UK is their main home.

You can find out more information on the NHS website if you live in England. If you live in Scotland, please visit NHS24 and if you live in Wales, please visit Health in Wales (NHS Wales).


2. Doctor (General Practitioner)

As soon as you arrive in the UK and find temporary accommodation it is very important to register with a doctor in the area where you live. Your health service provider will depend on which area of the UK you live:

  • The NHS (National Health Service) covers England.
  • NHS24 covers Scotland.
  • Health in Wales (NHS Wales) covers Wales.

Do not wait until you are ill. In the UK doctors are often referred to as ‘GPs’ which stands for ‘General Practitioner’ so expect to hear both terms used.

When you have registered you will receive a personal NHS number on a card. You need to keep this number safe. You will need it when you visit the doctor or dentist (see below).

Making an appointment

When you register with your Doctor in the UK ask how to make an appointment. Different Doctor’s surgeries have different opening times and different ways of making an appointment. You may be able to only make an appointment on the day you wish to visit the surgery or you may be able to make an appointment in advance. Find out this information before you are ill.

Medicines/ Prescriptions

Even if you are entitled to free health treatment, you may have to pay for your prescription medicines if you live in England. A prescription charge in England is currently £7.85 for one item (as at April 2013). If you are exempt you will not have to pay. Check out the NHS’s policies and guidelines if you live in England. Prescription medicines are free of charge in Scotland and Wales (as at June 2013).


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3. Emergency services

If you need to telephone for an ambulance you should dial 999 (the call is free).

You can also visit the accident and emergency department (A & E) of your local hospital. The service is free to everyone in the first instance. However, if you are taken into hospital for treatment and you are not covered by the NHS you will have to pay.


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4. Dentist

You can register with a dentist in the same way as you register with a doctor. You firstly need to find a dentist in your area. Your health service provider will depend on which area of the UK you live:

  • The NHS (National Health Service) covers England.
  • NHS24 covers Scotland.
  • Health in Wales (NHS Wales) covers Wales.

You then need to call them to check that they offer NHS treatment and ask them to put your name on the list. You will need to tell the dentist your NHS number if you have one.

Making an appointment

You have to make an appointment in advance and must telephone the dental surgery if you need to cancel your appointment or you will be charged. If you are eligible for NHS treatment you can receive your dental treatment at a reduced rate. You do not have to pay for dental treatment if:-

• You are under 16 years of age.
• You are under 19 years of age and in full time education.
• You are pregnant.
• You have had a baby within the last 12 months.


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5. Optician

To have an eye test with the NHS costs around £16.95 and is not necessarily cheaper than having a private one. You do not need to pay for an NHS eye test if:-

  • You are aged 60 or more.
  • You are under 16 years of age.
  • You are under 19 years of age and in full time education.
  • You or your partner receives Income Support, Family Credit, Income-based Jobseekers Allowance or Disability Working Allowance.
  • You are registered blind.
  • You have diabetes or glaucoma.
  • You live in Scotland.

You can find an optician in your area via the NHS website.


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6. Private health insurance

You may decide to take out private health insurance in the UK or take out insurance in your home country before arriving in the UK. There are a vast range of companies providing this service via the internet. Your university may also have details of staff benefits regarding health insurance so you may wish to consult your Human Resources department in the first instance.


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7. Having a baby in the UK

If you think you may be pregnant you may wish to take a pregnancy test to confirm this. There are a variety available and can be bought from your local chemist from around £2 to £15. As soon as you think you are pregnant you should make an appointment with your local doctor or midwife. Being pregnant may affect the treatment of any current or future illness. Your pregnancy will be treated confidentially (even if you are under 16). Your maternity team will advise you about the antenatal care choices in your local area. You’ll need to register with a midwife. Please visit your local doctor’s surgery in the first instance.

The following websites give more in-depth information about pregnancy in the UK and the choices available to women:

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