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 (SHS). Also, if it is clinically appropriate and practical in your individual case, the SHS offers out of area registration without home visits for the students who live within inner London. If you do not live locally and either could not register with the SHS or would like to 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.
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
Access to this depends on your nationality and your immigration status in the UK – please read the following sections:
EU, EEA or Swiss nationals
Your right to access healthcare depends on whether you were resident in the UK before the end of 2020, or afterwards, due to the UK leaving the EU. However, if you are an Irish citizen you can get free NHS healthcare when you start living in the UK - it will not depend on the date. This is because access to healthcare is covered by the Common Travel Area (CTA) administrative arrangements. Under the CTA, British and Irish citizens can move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and privileges, including the right to study, as well as access to social welfare benefits and health services.
Resident in the UK before 31 December 2020
If you were resident in the UK before 31 December 2020, you should have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to stay in the UK. Those who have a pending application or have been granted Pre-Settled or Settled Status will continue to have full access to NHS services. Those who were eligible to apply but have not submitted an application will be chargeable for treatment. If you're an Irish citizen, you do not need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Moving to the UK from 1 January 2021 onwards
Studying a course of up to 6 months duration
For EU nationals who reside in the EU and are coming to study on a course up to 6 months, you should get an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) from your home country before leaving. Your EHIC will cover you for treatment that becomes medically necessary, until you return to your country. It also covers you for the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care. As the EHIC does not cover all treatment it is advisable to also pay for a private travel insurance policy.
Students from Norway can access medically necessary healthcare using a valid Norwegian passport.
If you are a student from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland you may be charged for NHS healthcare. You should check with the relevant health authority where you live before travelling to the UK.
Studying a course longer than 6 months
If you have not established residence in the UK before the end of 2020, you will need to apply for student immigration permission to study a course longer than six months. As part of your application, you will need to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge, so that you can then access healthcare in the UK.
If you pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS) as a part of your visa application, you may be entitled to a full or partial refund if you’re a full-time student in higher education and have an EHIC issued by an EU country. You will not be eligible for a refund if you work in the UK while studying. You won’t be able to apply for a refund until 1 January 2022. However, your refund will be backdated to include any immigration health surcharge payments made since 1 January 2021. If you intend to apply for a refund of your immigration health surcharge payment, you should use your EU EHIC for medically necessary treatment during your studies.
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 Guide to applying for a Student Visa.
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.
For more useful information please visit the UK Council for International Students Affairs (UKCISA) website.
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?
- ask your NHS GP to refer you or make a suggestion
- search online for a private healthcare provider and contact them directly
- use an online listing service, such as the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN)
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 or Student 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 or Student 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.
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 for free on 116 123. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nightline This is a confidential listening, support and practical information service for students in London. It is open from 6pm to 2am every night of term. You can call 020 7631 0101 or email email@example.com.