As a general rule, students on courses of six months or longer are eligible for healthcare under the National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s state-funded health service, from the date of arrival in the UK. Family members (EU citizens or those on a Tier 4 dependent’s visa) living with you are also eligible. NHS treatment is free but you will need to pay for most medication prescribed by a doctor/general practitioner (commonly referred to as a GP). There is a standard charge, currently £8.40, per item prescribed under the NHS. One exception is contraceptive medication, which is free of charge.
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 to enable you to access NHS healthcare. Students may be asked to provide a letter confirming they are registered on a course of study, which can be requested from Registry once you have registered on your programme. Overseas students will need to present their passport and visa. The NHS website allows you to search for local GP practices by entering your postcode.
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 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.
GPs can advise on medication for mental health conditions, with referral to a psychiatrist if necessary. If you think it’s likely you will need ongoing mental health support, we advise you to contact the Student Advice & Counselling Service for further guidance. GPs can also refer patients for free counselling under the NHS but waiting times can be long. The School has a Student Advice & Counselling Service which is available to all students – please get in touch if you would like to find out more.
Other mental health support:
London Nightline: a confidential student-run phone line offering emotional support and practical information.
Samaritans: run by trained volunteers, for people experiencing suicidal thoughts of extreme distress.
It is helpful if you can bring with you information about any medication from your current doctor. You may find that your GP is not able to prescribe exactly the same medication that you normally take. You are permitted to bring a certain amount of medication into the UK with you in its original container/packaging, but depending on the drug you may only be permitted to bring a limited quantity.
If you need hospital treatment and are too unwell to get to hospital 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. If you can get to hospital yourself you need to find the nearest hospital with an Accident & Emergency Department. If you have an urgent problem which can’t wait but is not life threatening call 111 for advice.
If the situation is not acute, you can call your usual GP number to book an appointment or if you need basic advice pharmacists can usually help.
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.
More information can be found on the website of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).