How to get health care in the UK as an international student

Health care in the UK for a student

This article about how to get health care in the UK as an international student was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 15 September, 2021

First of all, it’s worth getting a deeper understanding of medical care in the UK if you’re still wondering, what do the NHS do?

Now that you have registered and paid for the NHS, you are entitled to the national health service in the UK. But what if you really get sick whilst you’re studying here or even run into a medical emergency? What should you do?

In this guide we explore how you can access healthcare provisions in the UK as an international student.

Are international students in the UK entitled to free health care from the NHS?

If you are going to be studying in the UK for over six months then you should be entitled to full or partial use of all NHS facilities, although you will have to pay a surcharge of £150 for every 12 months of your studies if you are a student coming from outside the EU. You can find out more about what the NHS is, how it works, and what care it will provide you with here.

What coverage and services does the NHS provide to international students?

If you qualify for NHS care and have paid the requisite fees, you will be entitled to the same coverage and services as UK citizens.

Free NHS services include:

  • General Practitioner (GP) office visits. A GP is a general doctor who is qualified to see patients of all ages. They are the first person you see if you need treatment
  • Emergency treatment (but not in-patient or follow-up treatment)
  • Family planning services, including contraception (but not including fertility treatments and abortions)
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment
  • Diagnosis and treatment of certain communicable diseases, including sexually-transmitted infections

You may need to pay for:

  • Perscriptions
  • Vaccinations
  • Dental care
  • Optical care

To find local NHS services near to you including GPs, dentists, opticians, pharmacies, hospitals and the services they offer visit NHS UK. To check your symptoms online or for further information visit the NHS website.

How do I get sexual health care in the UK?

There are many sexual health clinics or drop-in centres around the UK (also known as Genito Urinary Medicine or GUM clinics) where you can go for sexual wellbeing advice, STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) tests or for free contraception. Click here to find clinics in your area.

Contraception in the UK is free and widely available in the UK. Learn more about menstrual health in the UK, click here; and to learn more about British students’ and sex, click here.

How do I find a dentist in the UK?

Dentists in the UK recommend that you get your teeth checked out every six months, so if you’re here for a while then you should go to either an NHS or private dentist. If you’re going to an NHS dentist then make sure you have registered already with your GP (doctor) as you will need your medical NHS card when you sign up. Treatment is not free, but it’s cheaper than private.

How do I find an optician in the UK?

All you specs-wearing students (specs = glasses) know how important it is to look after your eyesight. If your sight becomes worse or you are wondering where to buy glasses or contact lenses in the UK then you need to go to the optician for an eye test first. There are lots of high street opticians which offer a good service (some supermarkets even have opticians now), so check out which one offers the best deal for you as prices for tests, frames and lenses can vary.

Should I get private medical care?

A wide choice of private healthcare is available in the UK. Although it can be expensive, it is very quick and efficient.

If you would like to access private medical care, you can take out health insurance to keep the costs down.

That said, the level of care and service you get on the NHS is very good! Brits love the NHS because it provides quality medical care to every resident no matter how rich or poor they are.

What do I do in a medical emergency?

In case of serious emergency, call 999. It is FREE to ring this number from any phone. Tell the operator to send an ambulance to your location.

If you are able to move without endangering yourself, go to your nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) ward for treatment.