What is the NHS healthcare surcharge?

What does the NHS do?

This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 12 January 2021.

One of the things you will need to arrange alongside your student visa is the payment of the healthcare surcharge, which will entitle you to free healthcare in the UK during your studies. In this article, we cover how you need to make the payment and what treatments the National Health Service (NHS) covers.

UK Survival Service for international students

Are international students entitled to free healthcare?

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 for every 12 months of your studies. 

If you’re studying in Scotland, you can make use of the NHS for free, regardless of the length of your stay. In Northern Ireland, the service is pretty much the same, except that they offer social care too, which is help and support for people who require physical or practical help.

If you arrived in the UK from an EU country, a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland before 31 December 2020, you can carry on to use the NHS free of charge, just as you did before Brexit. You will have needed to obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before coming to the UK.

If your course is less than six months long, but the UK government is providing at least 35 per cent of the funding for your course, you may also be entitled to free healthcare. 

You will have to pay £9.15 (the price is reviewed yearly) for any medicine the doctor prescribes in England, however prescriptions are currently free in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Contraception is free for everyone regardless of where you live.

What is the NHS?

The UK’s National Healthcare Service (NHS) has a number of different branches including the NHS, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and HSC (Health and Social Care) Northern Ireland. Together, they make sure that everyone in the UK has access to free medical treatment.

Do international students need healthcare insurance?

If you are here for less than six months you are required to obtain health insurance from your own country and provide evidence of this as part of the immigration process. And if you need medical care during your stay you will need to provide copies of your passport and medical insurance.

What does NHS registration entitle international students to?

When you arrive in the UK, register with a general practitioner (GP) as soon as you can and apply for an NHS card to get access to these services for free:

  • Consultation with a doctor 
  • Hospital treatment in the case of an accident or emergency 
  • Hospital treatment if your doctor recommends it 
  • Contraceptive services 
  • Maternity care 

What will I need to pay for?

  • Any medication the doctor prescribes for you
  • Any dental treatment within the NHS scheme
  • The cost of eye tests and glasses or contact lenses
  • Any forms or letters you may need
  • Vaccinations

You may also want to read

How to slow the spread of coronavirus: a complete guide

Where to get help when your university is closed

Student mental health guide for international students