The United Kingdom has a two-tiered health care system consisting of the publicly-funded National Health Service (NHS) and the private sector. The NHS affords free access to a general practitioner (GP) who will advise on, and prescribe for, general ailments, and who will make referrals to specialists as necessary. The NHS also offers other types of services including:
- Urgent and emergency care
- Pharmacy services
- GP services
- Dental services
- Mental health services
- Eyecare services
- Sexual health services
Some hospital treatment is free of charge for everyone who needs it, regardless of how long they have been or intend to stay in the UK. This includes:
- treatment for accidents and emergencies as an outpatient in a hospital’s accident and emergency department. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland emergency treatment in a walk-in centre is also free of charge.
- compulsory psychiatric treatment
- in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, compulsory treatment under a court order
- treatment for certain communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, cholera, food poisoning, malaria, meningitis and pandemic influenza. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, HIV treatment is free. In Wales, testing for the HIV virus and counselling following a test are both free of charge, but any necessary subsequent treatment and medicines may have to be paid for. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, if you have any problems with accessing HIV treatment, you can get advice from the Terrence Higgins Trust at THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.
- family planning services
- treatment provided to victims of violence including torture, female genital mutilation, domestic violence and sexual violence
[Source: Citizens Advice]
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 (eg certain vaccinations)
- Dental and optical treatment
- Medicines prescribed by your GP (doctor)
For information regarding access to hospital and primary care, as well NHS charges and exemptions please see Guidance on overseas visitors’ hospital charging regulations. If you do receive medical attention overseas, get a detailed invoice from the doctor or hospital. Always submit original receipts for any medical services or prescriptions you received while travelling. Most insurance companies will not accept copies or faxes.
Accessing the NHS
Students on a Tier 4 Visa
Students studying on a Tier 4 visa (the majority of First-Year students) are required to pay a healthcare surcharge. The non-refundable healthcare surcharge must be paid by students studying at the BISC on a Tier 4 visa. The current cost of the surcharge is £150 for students. Payment of the surcharge enables you to access the National Health Service (NHS) in the same way as a permanent UK resident. Payment may be required for some services such as dental treatment and eye tests.
Please visit https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application/pay for more information. Note that you must make the payment before you submit or send your visa or immigration application (or book an appointment at a premium service centre).
Non-Tier 4 Visa Students
Regulation changes mean that from April 2015, non EEA visitors who come to the UK for less than 6 months (i.e., students in the Fall or Winter or Summer terms) who use the NHS will be charged 150% of the cost of any medical treatment they receive. It is therefore recommended that this group possesses adequate travel and health insurance to be able to reclaim any costs.
UK/EU Passport Holders
UK and EU passport holders can register with the NHS and are not required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. EU nationals will typically 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 need to access the services below then medicines are free:
- Medicines administered at a hospital or an NHS walk-in centre.
- Medicines personally administered by a GP.
- Medicines supplied at a hospital or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) clinic for the treatment of a sexually transmitted infection or tuberculosis.
Most types of contraception are available for free in the UK. Contraception is free to all women and men through the NHS. Places where you can get contraception include:
- most GP surgeries – talk to your GP or practice nurse
- community contraception clinics
- some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
- sexual health clinics – they also offer contraceptive and STI testing services
- some young people's services (call the Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123 for more information)