Accessing Healthcare (international and EU/EEA students)

Access to a doctor (GP)

The type of doctor that deals with general health and medical issues in the UK is known as a General Practitioner (GP). Most GPs work together in groups, known as GP Surgeries.  You will normally register as an NHS (National Health Service) patient with a GP Surgery, rather than with an individual doctor. You should register with a GP surgery as soon as you arrive in the UK - do not wait until you become unwell, as you may not be able to get the health care you need. 

If you are living at the Mile End campus, or in postcodes E1, E2, E3 or E14, you can register with the Student Health Service. If you do not live locally, you should register with an NHS GP surgery near to where you live. You can search for a GP Surgery online, using the postcode for the address where you are living in the UK. GP surgeries will normally register all international students in the UK, regardless of the length of your programme.

You will not normally have to pay to see a GP. However, depending on the length of your programme, you may register as a temporary resident (i.e. up to 3 months: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/nhs-services-and-treatments/how-do-i-register-as-a-temporary-resident-with-a-gp/) or "ordinarily resident" in the UK (see https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/doctors/Pages/NHSGPs.aspx).  "Ordinarily resident" means living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being. 

Although access to a GP and nurse is free, all NHS patients in England (apart from those who are exempt) are required to make a payment toward the cost of prescriptions. 

Other healthcare services (pharmacies, NHS walk-in centres, NHS 111)

A pharmacist can give you advice for many common minor illnesses, such as diarrhoea, minor infections, headache, travel advice or sore throats.

Walk-in/urgent care centres are a facility you can go to if you have a minor illness or injury and it can't wait until your GP surgery is open. The NHS in England is currently changing how these services work. You can check the information about what medical issues these centres deal with and how to access your local centre here.  

Call NHS 111, if you urgently need medical help or advice but it's not a life-threatening situation. You can also call 111 if you are not sure which NHS service to use.

Medical emergencies

An emergency is a critical or life-threatening situation. In many cases, the quickest way to get help is to go to your nearest A&E (Accident & Emergency) department which are open 24 hours a day. A&E departments are located in certain hospitals. You can use the "Find and choose" service on the NHS website to find your nearest A&E. The closest A&E to the Mile End campus is at The Royal London Hospital, opposite Whitechapel underground station. You can get directions here.

If you think immediate treatment by paramedics is needed call 999 for an ambulance.

NHS services that are free for everyone

Initial treatment at A&E (but not follow-up treatment, or admission as an inpatient to the hospital); sexual health services and some treatments for infectious diseases. 

Hospital treatment and secondary care NHS services for non-EEA nationals

All non-EEA nationals who apply to come to the UK, or to extend their stay in the UK, for work, study, or to join family for a time-limited period of more than six months, have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge so that you can have access to hospital treatment and secondary care services from the NHS, while you are in the UK. Secondary care includes most specialist services that your GP might refer you to. The cost of your Immigration Health Surcharge is based on the length of your immigration permission, including the time you are given before and after the course dates. You will find more information about this, including how to calculate the charge, in our Tier 4 guidance.

All international students coming to the UK to study on a course of fewer than 6 months must have adequate medical insurance before travelling.  This is because free hospital treatment (beyond emergency treatment) and specialist treatment that a GP might refer you for (i.e. secondary care NHS services) are not available to you.  However, some of these services might still be accessible for you but you have to pay for them and claim on your medical insurance.  Check what your policy includes before you travel.

I am an EEA national

Most students are able to obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their country of residence prior to coming to the UK. This card allows EEA nationals to get the same medical treatment, which is free to residents of the country they are visiting, without being charged. The UK government has produced a leaflet about EHIC and access to medical treatment while in the UK.

In addition, if you are exercising your right to reside in the UK as a student or self-sufficient person, you are required to have comprehensive sickness insurance throughout your period of residence in the UK. Having an EHIC satisfies this requirement if you are not intending to be in the UK permanently.

It is important that you obtain this card before you leave your country of residence. If you have lost or forgotten your EHIC, you may be able to obtain a 'provisional replacement certificate'. This document is equivalent to the European Health Insurance Card. The website of the European Commission says: "It acts as a replacement if the European Health Insurance Cardholder has lost or forgotten his Card, or if the sickness insurance institution is unable to issue the applicant with a European Health Insurance Card prior to his departure. It has the same value as the European Health Insurance Card."

You cannot apply for this card in the UK and without it, you could be charged for using some NHS services, unless you have alternative medical insurance.

Every member state of the European Economic Area provides information about how to apply for an EHIC in that country.

What if I am on a regular medication?

If you have a chronic health problem and/or require regular medication it would be helpful if you bring a letter from your doctor back home explaining your diagnosis and treatment. Some medications may not be available in the UK or difficult to get at short notice, so make sure you bring adequate supplies for at least a month of treatment. If you are not entitled to free hospital treatment and secondary care NHS services you are advised to bring enough supply for the whole duration of your stay in the UK or have medical insurance to be able to access private healthcare.

Certain medication may have ingredients that are considered as controlled drugs. Check if your medicine contains a controlled drug on the controlled drug list.

When travelling with medicine containing a controlled drug you need to prove your medicine is prescribed to you. You may also need to get a licence if you are travelling for at least 3 months or carrying enough to last you that long. For further information please see the dedicated page on the gov.uk website.

How do I access private healthcare or therapy?

You can:

What if I have a baby in the UK?

As explained above, most international students and their dependants making immigration applications are required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) to cover entitlement to National Health Service (NHS) hospital treatment in the UK. 

A baby who is born in the UK is exempt from paying charges for NHS hospital treatment while they are aged 3 months or less. Therefore if you have Tier 4 immigration permission and you would like your baby to be able to get free hospital treatment after 3 months, you can make a Tier 4 Dependant application for them. Alternatively, you may decide to pay for private medical insurance for your baby. There is information about how to apply for immigration permission for babies born in the UK on the UKCISA website.

Useful information

UKCISA's Health and Healthcare web pages - Find out what National Health Service treatment you are entitled to, what services are free of charge and general advice about keeping healthy during your studies in the UK.

Samaritans This is a confidential service, where you can talk about any difficult thoughts or feelings that you are worried or unhappy about (if you feel you would like some support). You can call and talk to someone 24-hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90. You can also email jo@samaritans.org. Or you can drop in and talk to someone in person at the central London branch in Soho between 9am and 9pm every day of the year - you don't need an appointment, but you may have to wait a short time before speaking to someone. 

Nightline This is a confidential listening, support and practical information service for students in London. It is open from 6pm to 8am every night of term. You can call 020 7631 0101 or email listening@nightline.org.uk