The National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly-funded national healthcare system for England. It is a residence-based system, which means most NHS healthcare in England is free for those "ordinarily resident" in the UK.
You do not need to be ordinarily resident in England to register with a medical practice and access GP services without charge (you can see a GP doctor or practice nurse for any reason for free). But you may need to pay if you need a hospital referral or other specialist treatment.
Please see below for particular guidance about access to NHS healthcare.
Some NHS hospital services or treatments are exempt from charges, so that they are free to all. These include, among other services:
- Accident and emergency (A&E) services provided at an A&E hospital department, walk-in centre, minor injuries unit or urgent care centre (but not follow-up treatment or admission as an in-patient to hospital)
- Treatment for most infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Please see hospital care that is free on the NHS for more information.
- Students from outside the EEA
Tier 4 students studying in the UK for more than 6 months will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge as part of their visa application fee. The surcharge will entitle Tier 4 students, and any dependants, to free NHS hospital treatment in England on a similar basis to an ordinarily resident person. This will apply from the date your visa is granted until it expires.
If you are coming to England to study for a short course for 6 months or less, you'll be charged for NHS secondary care unless an exemption applies. You should make sure you are covered for healthcare through personal medical or travel insurance for the duration of your visit.
If you need NHS hospital or specialist treatment and you have not arranged insurance, please note fees can be very expensive (you will be charged for NHS secondary care at 150% of the standard NHS rate, unless an exemption category applies to either you or the treatment).
- Students from the EEA and Switzerland
If you are an EEA or Swiss national, you and any family members coming with you must apply for an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from your country of residence (you must obtain an EHIC before travelling to the UK)*. You will need to present the card every time that medical care becomes necessary while you complete your course in England. This will ensure that you are not charged when NHS charges for hospital care would otherwise apply. Without an EHIC, you may be charged for treatment under the NHS.
If you are a student from an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, and have begun a course of education in England before the end of 2020, you may continue to use your EHIC, if you have one, to access free NHS healthcare until the end of your course.
If you have an EEA passport but you don’t normally live in an EEA country (e.g. you are a dual Canadian/Italian citizen), then it’s unlikely that you will be able to get an EHIC. If you are in this category and entering the UK as an EEA student rather than as a Tier 4 student, you will need to obtain Comprehensive Sickness Insurance in the form of private medical insurance before you come to the UK.
*An exception applies to students from the Republic of Ireland. Visitors (including students) from the Republic of Ireland do not have to present an EHIC to obtain free NHS treatment under the EU Regulations. They only need to present evidence that they are resident in the Republic of Ireland, although a valid EHIC can be used as evidence of this.
- All students
Some NHS services are not free of charge and everyone is required to contribute towards the cost of their prescriptions, dental care and eye care, so please bear in mind you may need to budget for these (or time any check-ups or treatments to coincide with trips back home).
Please check for information on whether you might be eligible to get help with health costs, for example, if you’re pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, or have a specified medical condition.
- Accessing NHS services in England
Primary care is the first point of contact for most people and is delivered by a wide range of independent contractors, such as general practitioners (GPs), dentists, pharmacists and optometrists, through NHS walk-in centres and the NHS 111 telephone service.
See NHS services explained for more details.
More information can also be found on the website of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).
- Registering with a doctor (GP)
The most important thing to do once you know where you will be living is to register with a local GP.
A General Practitioner (GP) is your family doctor and is the main point of contact for general healthcare for NHS patients. They help you to manage your health and prevent illness and are trained in all aspects of general medicine. GPs also provide the link to further health services and may arrange hospital admissions and referrals to specialists.
The NHS website allows you to search for local GP practices by entering your postcode. To formally register with a GP practice as an NHS patient you will need to submit a registration form to them. The GMS1 registration form should be available at the practice, or you can download it from GOV.UK. Some GP practices may also ask for identification and proof of address.
Gower Street Practice
Gower Street Practice is located right next to LSHTM, so may be a convenient option for our students. During late September and early October, they extend their catchment area to allow students living in the following postcode areas to register with the Practice:
- EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4
- N1, N4, N5, N6, N7, N8, N10, N11*, N13, N15, N16, N17, N19, N22
- NW1, NW3, NW5, NW6*, NW8
- SW1, SW3, SW6*, SW7, SW10*
- W1, W2, W8, W9, W10*, W11*, W14*
- WC1, WC2
(*Parts of these postcode areas fall outside the practice area. You can check with the practice reception).
- Mental health care
GPs can advise on the management of mental health conditions, including prescribing medication, and may be able to diagnose mental illness or refer you for a specialist mental health assessment.
To access certain mental health services you will need a referral from your GP, but some services allow people to refer themselves, such as psychological therapies (IAPT) services. These services offer therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), for common problems including stress, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and phobias.
Waiting times for mental health services in the NHS, including Psychiatric or other specialist assessments or treatments, are usually long.
If you think it’s likely you will need ongoing mental health support, we advise you to contact Student Support Services for further guidance.
LSHTM offers a Student Counselling Service, however the number of sessions you can have with a student counsellor is limited to usually 6 sessions.
Other mental health support:
London Nightline: a confidential and anonymous evening/night listening service run by trained volunteer students offering emotional support and practical information.
Samaritans: 24/7 helpline run by trained volunteers, for people experiencing suicidal thoughts or extreme distress.
Dentists operate separately from GPs and you can register with a dentist anywhere – it doesn’t have to be near your home. Dentists can provide both NHS treatment and private treatment although even NHS treatment is not free of charge unless you are pregnant or have had a baby in the UK up to 12 months before treatment starts. Dentists can be found on the NHS website and it’s a good idea to check if they are currently registering NHS patients, as private dental charges may be significantly higher.
- Eye care
Eye tests are provided by optometrists who are usually based within opticians in high street stores such as SpecSavers or Vision Express, but there are other chains and independent opticians.
- Students with existing long-term health conditions
It is helpful if you can bring with you any relevant medical documentation and information about medication from your current doctor. You may find that your GP is not able to prescribe exactly the same medication that you normally take, as treatment protocols in the UK might be different. You are permitted to bring a certain amount of medication into the UK with you in its original packaging, but depending on the drug, you may only be permitted to bring a limited quantity and you may need a prescription letter from your doctor.
An A&E department (also known as emergency department or casualty) deals with life-threatening emergencies. If you cannot get to hospital by yourself, you should call an ambulance. The emergency number in the UK is 999 and you will not be charged for calling out an ambulance.
Not all hospitals have an A&E department. You can find your nearest A&E service here.
Urgent but less severe injuries can be treated in urgent care centres or minor injuries units.
If you need urgent medical attention but it's not a life-threatening situation, you should first call 111. If you think life is at risk, you should call 999.
NHS 111 will assess you and you'll then be advised where you need to go for treatment.
Travel vaccinations may cost more than the usual NHS prescription charge and are available at private travel clinics as well as via your GP. The Hospital for Tropical Diseases runs a travel clinic.