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.
Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It's free to register. But you may need to pay if you need a hospital referral or other specialist treatment.
You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.
GP surgeries are usually the first contact if you have a health problem. They can treat many conditions and give health advice. They can also refer you to other NHS services.
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.
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.
- COVID-19 Vaccination
All adults in the UK aged 18 or over should be offered their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 19 July 2021. To access the vaccine, registration with a GP surgery is encouraged. LSHTM students living in or around the Bloomsbury area are strongly encouraged to register at the Gower Practice (LSHTM's partner GP surgery).
The NHS has published a comprehensive set of FAQs for university students. These include questions about the following and more:
- how to get a vaccine if you're not registered with a GP
- what to do if you're in a different location from where you are registered with a GP
- what to do if you're an international student who has had the first dose of a vaccine not available in the UK
- 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. Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It's free to register.
You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number in order to register.
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.
Gower Street Practice
Gower Street Practice is located right next to LSHTM, so may be a convenient option for our students. Their catchment area includes the following postcodes:
- 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
You can still register with Gower Street medical practice if you live outside these postcodes but as an out-of-area patient, which means you will not be eligible to receive home visits.
Registering with a different GP
You might be able to register with a different GP surgery.
- Find out about finding and registering with a GP surgery and booking appointments.
- The NHS website also 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. Most practices now offer online registration.
Alternatively, you can complete a GP registration form (GSM1) which is available on the UK Government website. Please print this form off and phone our reception and we will advise you on a suitable time for you to come in and hand this in.
- 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).
- 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 ophthalmic practitioners or optometrists who are usually based within opticians in high street stores, but there are also independent opticians. You can find an optician near you by entering your postcode on the NHS website.
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.
- General vaccinations
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.
- Students with existing long-term health conditions
You should discuss with your home doctor how to best manage your condition(s) while you're studying abroad. It is helpful if you can bring with you any relevant medical documentation and treatment information from your current doctor. You may find that your GP in the UK is not able to prescribe exactly the same medication that you normally take, as treatment protocols in the UK might be different. It is a good idea to bring with you a supply of medication to last your first few weeks/months - you should bring the medication in its original packaging and accompanied by the prescription letter from your doctor. Depending on the drug, you may only be permitted to bring a limited quantity.
- Students from outside the EEA
Students undertaking a course in the UK for more than 6 months will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge as part of their student visa application fee. Payment of the surcharge will entitle students to free NHS hospital treatment in England on a broadly 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 come to the UK to study from 1 January 2021, you will need to pay the immigration health surcharge as part of your student visa application if your course lasts for more than 6 months. You may be eligible for a full or partial reimbursement if you meet the criteria.
Irish citizens will not be subject to the immigration health surcharge, in line with the UK's commitments under the Common Travel Area.
If you've paid the surcharge or are exempt from paying it, you'll be entitled to free NHS hospital treatment in England on broadly the same basis as someone who is ordinarily resident. Your entitlement will apply from the date your visa is granted until it expires.
If your course of study is less than 6 months, you do not need to pay the immigration health surcharge. If you have a valid EU-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or are a Norwegian citizen with a valid Norwegian passport, you can access medically necessary treatment during your stay.
If you are a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you may have to pay for any NHS healthcare you receive. Any treatment that you need to pay for will be charged at 150% of the national NHS rate. You should buy insurance to cover your healthcare as you would if visiting another non-EU country.